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Indole is an aromatic heterocyclic organic compound. It has a bicyclic structure, consisting of a six-membered benzene ring fused to a five-membered nitrogen-containing pyrrole ring. The participation of the nitrogen lone electron pair in the aromatic ring means that indole is not a base, and it does not behave like a simple amine.

Indole is solid at room temperature. It occurs naturally in human feces and has an intense fecal smell. At very low concentrations, however, it has a flowery smell, and is a constituent of many flower scents (such as orange blossoms) and perfumes. It also occurs in coal tar.

Indole Structure

The indole structure can be found in many organic compounds like the amino acid tryptophan and in tryptophan-containing protein, in alkaloids, and in pigments.

Indole undergoes electrophilic substitution, mainly at position 3. Substituted indoles are structural elements of (and for some compounds the synthetic precursors for) the tryptophan-derived tryptamine alkaloids like the neurotransmitter serotonin, melatonin, the hallucinogens psilocybin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, or the ergolines like LSD. Other indolic compounds include the plant hormone Auxin (indolyl-3-acetic acid, IAA), the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin, and the betablocker pindolol.

The name indole is derived from a combination of the words indigo and oleum, since indole was first isolated by treatment of the indigo dye with oleum.