The Attached Proton Test (APT) is a very useful experiment that, like DEPT, provides information about how many hydrogens or protons are attached to a particular carbon atom. Both DEPT and APT do this by “editing” the spectrum so that the carbon signals point either up or down depending on the number of attached hydrogens. APT differs from DEPT in several significant ways, though. The first is that quaternary carbons (i.e. carbons that bear no hydrogens) are retained in the APT spectrum, whereas they are absent in DEPT (though there are variants of the traditional DEPT experiment that do retain the quaternary signals). In APT, quaternary and methylene carbons point down by convention, while methyl and methine carbons point up. Figure 1 shows a comparison of a conventional carbon, APT and DEPT-135 spectra of a sample of propyl benzoate.
Assigning peaks in the NMR spectrum is a fundamental part of structure verification. Depending on a variety of factors including the size and complexity of the molecule, and the field strength the NMR data are collected at, this can be a straightforward exercise or an extremely challenging one! For example, in the case of a fairly simple compound like lidocaine, it is relatively easy to assign all of the peaks directly in the 1H spectrum using a 43 MHz benchtop NMR spectrometer. However, as a compound’s molecular weight increases so the spectra tend to become more complex, with more resonances and, inevitably, more signal overlap. Assigning the peaks thus becomes significantly more challenging, which is where collecting 2D NMR spectra can help with completing the assignments.