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Last updated date: 24th Jul 2024
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What Is Mutarotation Explain with Example

Ever wondered why sugar disappears in water so quickly, making it taste sweet? It's because of a cool thing called mutarotation, where sugar molecules keep changing shape and affecting how the solution behaves. If you're studying for JEE, get ready to explore this interesting concept that can help you do well in your exams!

What is Mutarotation?

Mutarotation is the alteration in the optical rotation of a solution due to the change in the Equilibrium of the α- and β- Anomers of Glucose upon dissolution in water. Due to the mechanism of ring-chain tautomerism, the α- and β- develop gradually, interconverting until a state of Equilibrium is formed. For example, when either α−D Glucose or β−D Glucose is solvated in water, the particular rotation of the solution steadily changes to an Equilibrium value of +52.7 °which is similar to 36% alpha and 64% beta forms.  

Occurrence of Mutarotation

Mutarotation is a repercussion of ring-chain tautomerism. By the mechanism of ring-chain tautomerism, the cyclic hemiacetal forms of Sugars have established Equilibrium with the “linear” (straight-chain) form. This implies that even if you begin with a 100% pure sample of either the alpha or the beta Anomer, once it has been solvated in water it can be in Equilibrium, through the linear pattern, to the other Anomer. This is to say, if P is in Equilibrium with Q, and Q is in Equilibrium with R, then P is in Equilibrium with R. That states the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics

The 36:64 ratio of alpha (α) to beta (β) depicts the distribution of isomers when D-Glucose is in Equilibrium in the water at 25° C.

The Equilibrium Act: α vs. β

Think of the α and β forms as having different personalities. The α form is slightly less stable but sweeter, while the β form is more stable but less sweet. In the aqueous solution, they reach an equilibrium, where a specific percentage of each form exists at a given time. This equilibrium mixture determines the overall sweetness and optical rotation (the ability to rotate plane-polarized light) of the solution.

Factors Affecting the Mutarotation Waltz:

Several factors influence the mutarotation waltz:

  • Temperature: Higher temperatures generally increase the rate of interconversion, leading to faster equilibrium and a more stable mixture.

  • pH: Acidic conditions favor the α form, while basic conditions favor the β form.

  • Concentration: Higher sugar concentrations slow down the mutarotation process.

Isomers & Light Rotation

Have you ever engrossed yourself with someone so much that you started to pick up some of their traits or habits and started to talk or behave like them or that they started picking up some of yours? Ultimately, you both happen to mutate into a combination of each other. You both change over time, which will also modify the nature of the relationship.

Similarly, molecules also experience changes steadily. One of the common changes that take place is when a molecule changes from one isomer into another isomer. For example, the Sugar molecule D-Glucose consists of two common isomers in the cyclic form: alpha Anomers and beta Anomers. In water, the molecule can unmask into a straight chain i.e. the linear pattern. When it ameliorates into the cyclic form, it can either form the alpha or the beta structure, therefore enabling D-Glucose to interchange between alpha and beta forms.

Mutarotation in Sugar

Mutarotation is a basic property of cyclic Sugars carrying a chemical compound called Hemiacetal.

Occurrence of Mutarotation in Sugar

No, Mutarotation does not take place in Sugar. It is a standard property of Sugars as well as (chiral) cyclic hemiacetals.This phenomenon first came into being in 1846 by French chemist Augustin-Pierre Dubrunfau. He also founded the production unit of alcohol from beet Sugar. While inspecting through what is Mutarotation in Glucose or the optical rotation of Glucose, he found that freshly solvated Glucose has a high rotational value. Also inspecting for the Mutarotation of lactose, no studies have been shown on its Mutarotation – perhaps because fructose is one of the swiftest Mutarotation Sugars.

Cause and Occurrence of Mutarotation of Glucose

Glucose has its presence in solution as an Equilibrium of several molecules. One amongst them is the long-established “2,3,4,5,6-pentahydroxyhexanal” form observed in Fischer projections: CH2OH-CHOH-CHOH-CHOH-CHOH-CHO, which you never should do with Sugars. The -OH and -CHO groups can combine to create a hemiacetal, and with various hydroxy groups to select from, one can conceptualize different ways to form a hemiacetal. The most stable for Glucose in solution has a 6-membered ring.A Glucose crystal usually consists of only one of the many forms of Glucose. When the crystal first dissolves, the large amount of the Glucose is in that specific form, which bears a particular optical activity. Each of the other forms of Glucose consists of its own optical activity. More so, the solution Equilibrium mixture has an optical activity which is a sort of an average of the individual components. Over a span, the optical activity of the Glucose solution is controlled over by the form found in the crystal, changes steadily to the optical activity of the Equilibrium mixture.


This article covers the definition, examples and occurrence of natural Mutarotation. The frequently asked questions at the end of this article can help you in clearing your doubts if you include any while understanding the same.

Mutarotation is a change in the optical rotation of a solution due to a change in the Equilibrium between alpha (ɑ) and beta (β) Anomers, upon dissolution in the aqueous solution.The process is also known as Anomerization.


When either Anomer is dissolved in water, the value of the specific rotation changes over time, eventually reaching the same value of +52.5°. 

The specific rotation of α-D-glucopyranose decreases from +112° to +52.5°.

The specific rotation of β-D-glucopyranose increases from +19° to +52.5°.

This behaviour is called Mutarotation


Mutarotation involves the mechanism of ring-chain tautomerism. The two different cyclic hemiacetal forms of Sugars establish a state of Equilibrium with the linear form. It means that even if a compound is 100% pure (containing only one form when it’s dissolved in water), it undergoes the Equilibrium state with its linear pattern.  For example, when a 100% alpha-Glucose form is added to water, it unmasks itself into a straight chain (or linear pattern). And, when it reforms, it can either change into an alpha form or beta form. Further, after some time, an Equilibrium state is achieved between both forms that show that the reaction follows the zeroth law of thermodynamics.

The alpha and beta Anomers of the Sugars have different specific rotations. A liquid solution of the pure alpha compound will rotate at a different angle and in the opposite direction to that of the solution of the pure beta compound. The individual value of the optical rotation of each Anomer and their ratio in the solution determines the optical ratio of a solution.

The optical rotation of the sample is weighed by taking the sum of the optical rotation of each monomer. A polarimeter is used to measure the rotation of a sample. This can also be used to calculate the ratio of two forms of a compound (Anomers) present in the solution.

Mutarotation in Everyday Stuff:

Mutarotation plays a vital role in various biological and industrial processes:

  • Honey: The slow mutarotation in honey prevents crystallization, making it stay smooth and spreadable.

  • Fruit Juices: The sweetness change in freshly squeezed juices compared to stored ones is due to the shift in α/β ratio during mutarotation.

  • Candy Making: Understanding mutarotation helps control the texture and sweetness of candies.

  • Pharmaceuticals: The sugar component of some drugs can undergo mutarotation, affecting their stability and efficacy.

Summary of Mutarotation

Mutarotation is a change in the way light bends when it passes through a certain kind of liquid. This change happens because there's a shift in the balance between two special forms of a molecule in the liquid. For this change to occur, the molecule must have a particular group in its structure.

Scientists first noticed mutarotation in sugars, and it turns out that the specific way sugar bends light in water can be different for different types of sugar.


Mutarotation is a process where a sugar molecule can change its structure between different forms, particularly in aqueous solutions. This phenomenon is commonly observed in carbohydrates like glucose. Mutarotation involves the conversion between the alpha and beta anomeric forms, which differ in the orientation of a specific hydroxyl group. Understanding mutarotation is crucial in biochemistry and has practical implications in fields such as medicine and food science. It highlights the dynamic nature of sugar molecules and their ability to exist in multiple structures. Overall, grasping mutarotation is fundamental for a comprehensive understanding of carbohydrate chemistry and its applications in various scientific domains.

FAQs on Mutarotation

1. What is Mutarotation?

Mutarotation is typically described as an alteration in a particular specific rotation over time because of the change between isomers. Split the term and decode the meaning like this: 'Muta' means 'change', and ‘rotation’ means spinning so it implies a change in rotation. Keep in mind that the specific rotation of a molecule never changes, but the specific rotation of the whole solution can change. This is because molecules can change between isomers in certain cases (such as with Glucose).

2. What is Mutarotation in Glucose?

Wondering what happens to Glucose in the water? Let's see what happens when we dissolve pure alpha-D-Glucose into the water and evaluate the specific rotation over time. At first, it will begin out at 112° just as we would anticipate, but gradually it will begin to change until it reaches 52.5°. Now, take a look at what happens when we dissolve pure beta-D-Glucose into the water and quantify the specific rotation over time. Yet again, it will begin where we would anticipate it at 18.7°, but it gradually changes until it also reaches 52.5°.

3. What is Mutarotation in Carbohydrates?

Anomers of cyclic sugars vary from one another in their competency to rotate plane-polarized light. For example, if we put the D-glucopyranose molecule, the alpha-D-glucopyranose rotates plane-polarized light at 112° while beta-D-glucopyranose rotates light +18.7 °. But, if we consider only one of these Anomers and dissolve into an aqueous solution, the degree of rotation will not simply be equivalent to one quantity or the other (+112 or 18.7). The degree of rotation will start to change until it reaches a definite amount. This phenomenon occurs as an outcome of the interconversion of one Anomer to the other.

4. What types of Sugars can undergo Mutarotation?

Mutarotation occurs when the hydroxyl group at the Anomeric position (C-1) switches configuration between alpha and beta. This happens because in solution a carbohydrate can "open up" to its aldehyde form. When it reforms the closed ring (which is a hemiacetal), the Anomeric hydroxyl can lose its original stereochemistry (alpha and beta get "scrambled.")

For this to happen, a carbohydrate must be a hemiacetal or hemiketal.

Glucose (hemiacetal) and fructose (hemiketal) can undergo Mutarotation.But sucrose and cellulose cannot- they are not hemiacetals (or hemiketals). They do not have an OH at the Anomeric position.

5. What are Anomers?

Anomers are cyclic monosaccharides or glycosides that are epimers, differing from each other in the configuration of C-1 if they are aldoses or in the configuration at C-2 if they are ketoses. The epimeric carbon in Anomers is known as Anomeric carbon or Anomeric center.

6. What are Alpha Anomers?

Alpha Anomer is the configuration of a carbohydrate in which the hydroxyl group is cis to the exocyclic oxygen at the Anomeric centre. That means, the hydroxyl group and the exocyclic oxygen atom are on the same side of the molecular projection. When we draw a Haworth formula, the hydroxyl group is in the downward direction if it is the alpha Anomer.Since Anomers are different in chemical structures, they are different in their properties as well. The Anomers are diastereomers of each other.

7. What are Beta Anomers?

Beta Anomer is the configuration of a carbohydrate in which the hydroxyl group is trans to the exocyclic oxygen at the Anomeric centre. That means, the hydroxyl group and the exocyclic oxygen atom are on the opposite sides of the molecular projection.The key difference between alpha and beta Anomers is that in alpha Anomer the hydroxyl group at the Anomeric carbon is cis to the exocyclic oxygen at the Anomeric centre, whereas in beta Anomer the hydroxyl group is trans to the exocyclic oxygen.

8. Where can I find concept pages of my syllabus topics?

You can find your syllabus topics on the official website of Vedantu or can also download the app from the Play Store. Vedantu provides a number of learning aids for you to choose from that helps you in the preparation of academic as well as competitive exam experts on Vedantu provide a detailed explanation as per your topics, subject and chapters.