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The organic compounds which have a -CN functional group are called nitriles, or cyano compounds. Organic compounds containing a nitrile group are referred to as cyanocarbons. Nitriles are polar compounds with high dielectric constants. Nitriles are available naturally in both plant and animal sources and more than 120 nitriles have been isolated from terrestrial and marine sources. Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower are a few examples of plants which produce nitriles.
In organic chemistry, a nitrile compound can undergo various reactions such as hydrolysis, reduction, additions, elimination, and oxidation. The Blaise reaction and Pinner reaction are some of the named reactions wherein nitrile acts as an electrophile. The Thorpe reaction is characterized by self-condensation of nitriles via nucleophilic addition. Nitrile compounds play an important role in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Nitrile compounds such as methyl cyanoacrylate are used in super glue and nitrile rubber. Polymers containing nitriles are used in the manufacture of medical gloves, called nitrile gloves. Nitrile rubber is resistant to fuels and oils, and hence it is widely used in the automotive industry for seals and other parts. In the pharmaceutical industry, nitriles are a component of antidiabetic, antidepressant and anticancer drugs.