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either member of a pair of substances that differ with respect to the configurations of their molecules (i.e., stereoisomers) and that lack a mirror-image relationship (i.e., are not enantiomorphs). An example is the pair consisting of either of the two optically active forms of tartaric acid (either the dextrorotatory or levorotatory form) and the optically inactive meso form of the same acid (mesotartaric acid). Unlike enantiomorphs, diastereoisomers need not have closely similar physical and chemical properties: they may differ as greatly as do structural isomers. For example, either of the optically active tartaric acids melts at 187 C (369 F), whereas mesotartaric acid melts at 143 C (290 F)

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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