connecting homomorphism


Homological algebra

homological algebra

(also nonabelian homological algebra)



Basic definitions

Stable homotopy theory notions



diagram chasing

Homology theories




Generally, a connecting homomorphism is a morphism of the kind produced by the snake lemma.

Specifically, when the double complex that goes into the snake lemma is regarded as part of a short exact sequence A B C A_\bullet \to B_\bullet \to C_\bullet of chain complexes, then the connecting homomorphisms induce morphisms δ n:H n(C)H n1(A)\delta_n : H_n(C) \to H_{n-1}(A) on the homology groups of these chain complexes which exhibit the corresponding long exact sequence in homology of the form

H n(A)H n(B)H n(C)δ nH n1(A)H n1(B)H n1(C). \cdots \to H_n(A) \to H_n(B) \to H_n(C) \stackrel{\delta_n}{\to} H_{n-1}(A) \to H_{n-1}(B) \to H_{n-1}(C) \to \cdots \,.

This long exact sequence is the image under chain homology

H 0():Ch (𝒜)𝒜 H_0(-) : Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) \to \mathcal{A}

of the long homotopy fiber sequence of chain complexes induced by the short exact sequence. Hence the connecting homomorphism is the image under H ()H_\bullet(-) of a mapping cone inclusion on chain complexes.

For long (co)homology exact sequences

In the case that 𝒜R\mathcal{A} \simeq RMod for some ring RR, the construction of the connecting homomorphism for homology long exact sequences is easily described in terms of elements and checking its properties is elementary, see In terms of elements below. By the embedding theorems the general case can be reduced to this case. But there is also a general abstract description without recourse to elements, which we discuss further below in General abstract construction .

In terms of elements

Let RR be a commutative ring and let 𝒜=R\mathcal{A} = RMod. Write Ch (𝒜)Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) for the category of chain complexes in 𝒜\mathcal{A}.


0A iB pC 0 0 \to A_\bullet \stackrel{i}{\to} B_\bullet \stackrel{p}{\to} C_\bullet \to 0

be a short exact sequence in Ch (𝒜)Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}).


For nn \in \mathbb{Z}, define a group homomorphism

δ n:H n(C)H n1(A), \delta_n : H_n(C) \to H_{n-1}(A) \,,

called the nnth connecting homomorphism of the short exact sequence, by sending

δ n:[c][ Bc^] A, \delta_n : [c] \mapsto [\partial^B \hat c]_A \,,


  1. cZ n(C)c \in Z_n(C) is a cycle representing a given homology group;

  2. c^C n(B)\hat c \in C_n(B) is any lift of that cycle to an element in B nB_n, which exists because pp is a surjection (but which no longer needs to be a cycle itself);

  3. [ Bc^] A[\partial^B \hat c]_A is the AA-homology class of Bc^\partial^B \hat c which is indeed in A n1B n1A_{n-1} \hookrightarrow B_{n-1} by exactness (since p( Bc^)= Cp(c^)= Cc=0p(\partial^B \hat c) = \partial^C p(\hat c) = \partial^C c = 0) and indeed in Z n1(A)A n1Z_{n-1}(A) \hookrightarrow A_{n-1} since A Bc^= B Bc^=0\partial^A \partial^B \hat c = \partial^B \partial^B \hat c = 0.


Def. 1 is indeed well defined in that the given map is independent of the choice of lift c^\hat c involved and in that the group structure is respected.


To see that the constructon is well-defined, let c˜B n\tilde c \in B_{n} be another lift. Then p(c^c˜)=0p(\hat c - \tilde c) = 0 and hence c^c˜A nB n\hat c - \tilde c \in A_n \hookrightarrow B_n. This exhibits a homology-equivalence [ Bc^] A[ Bc˜] A[\partial^B\hat c]_A \simeq [\partial^B \tilde c]_A since A(c^c˜)= Bc^ Bc˜ \partial^A(\hat c - \tilde c) = \partial^B \hat c - \partial^B \tilde c.

To see that δ n\delta_n is a group homomorphism, let [c]=[c 1]+[c 2][c] = [c_1] + [c_2] be a sum. Then c^c^ 1+c^ 2\hat c \coloneqq \hat c_1 + \hat c_2 is a lift and by linearity of \partial we have [ Bc^] A=[ Bc^ 1]+[ Bc^ 2][\partial^B \hat c]_A = [\partial^B \hat c_1] + [\partial^B \hat c_2].


Under chain homology H ()H_\bullet(-) the morphisms in the short exact sequence together with the connecting homomorphisms yield the homology long exact sequence

H n(A)H n(B)H n(C)δ nH n1(A)H n1(B)H n1(C). \cdots \to H_n(A) \to H_n(B) \to H_n(C) \stackrel{\delta_n}{\to} H_{n-1}(A) \to H_{n-1}(B) \to H_{n-1}(C) \to \cdots \,.

Consider first the exactness of H n(A)H n(i)H n(B)H n(p)H n(C)H_n(A) \stackrel{H_n(i)}{\to} H_n(B) \stackrel{H_n(p)}{\to} H_n(C).

It is clear that if aZ n(A)Z n(B)a \in Z_n(A) \hookrightarrow Z_n(B) then the image of [a]H n(B)[a] \in H_n(B) is [p(a)]=0H n(C)[p(a)] = 0 \in H_n(C). Conversely, an element [b]H n(B)[b] \in H_n(B) is in the kernel of H n(p)H_n(p) if there is cC n+1c \in C_{n+1} with Cc=p(b)\partial^C c = p(b). Since pp is surjective let c^B n+1\hat c \in B_{n+1} be any lift, then [b]=[b Bc^][b] = [b - \partial^B \hat c] but p(b Bc)=0p(b - \partial^B c) = 0 hence by exactness b Bc^Z n(A)Z n(B)b - \partial^B \hat c \in Z_n(A) \hookrightarrow Z_n(B) and so [b][b] is in the image of H n(A)H n(B)H_n(A) \to H_n(B).

It remains to see that

  1. the image of H n(B)H n(C)H_n(B) \to H_n(C) is the kernel of δ n\delta_n;

  2. the kernel of H n1(A)H n1(B)H_{n-1}(A) \to H_{n-1}(B) is the image of δ n\delta_n.

This follows by inspection of the formula in def. 1. We spell out the first one:

If [c][c] is in the image of H n(B)H n(C)H_n(B) \to H_n(C) we have a lift c^\hat c with Bc^=0\partial^B \hat c = 0 and so δ n[c]=[ Bc^] A=0\delta_n[c] = [\partial^B \hat c]_A = 0. Conversely, if for a given lift c^\hat c we have that [ Bc^] A=0[\partial^B \hat c]_A = 0 this means there is aA na \in A_n such that Aa Ba= Bc^\partial^A a \coloneqq \partial^B a = \partial^B \hat c. But then c˜c^a\tilde c \coloneqq \hat c - a is another possible lift of cc for which Bc˜=0\partial^B \tilde c = 0 and so [c][c] is in the image of H n(B)H n(C)H_n(B) \to H_n(C).


Of course the situation for cochain cohomology is formally dual to this situation. For convenience we repeat the statement for dual chains:

Let A B C A^\bullet \to B^\bullet \to C^\bullet be a short exact sequence of cochain complexes.

For [c] CH n(C)[c]_C \in H^n(C) the class of a closed element cc, by surjectivity of BCB \to C there is an element c^B\hat c \in B mapping to it. This need not be closed anymore, but of course d Bc^d_B \hat c is. By the fact that BCB \to C is a chain map we have that the image of d Bc^d_B \hat c in CC vanishes. Therefore by the exactness of the sequence the element d Bc^d_B \hat c may be regarded as a closed element of AA. The cohomology class [d Bc^] A[d_B \hat c]_A of this is what the connecting homomorphism

δ n:H n(C)H n+1(A) \delta^n : H^n(C) \to H^{n+1}(A)

assigns to [c] C[c]_C:

δ:[c] C[d Bc^] A. \delta : [c]_C \mapsto [d_B\hat c]_A \,.

This is indeed well defined, in that it is independent of the choice of c^\hat c: for c^\hat c' another choice, we have that the difference c^c^\hat c - \hat c' is in the kernel of BCB \to C hence is in AA. Then d Bc^=d Bc^+d A(c^c^)d_B \hat c' = d_B \hat c + d_A(\hat c - \hat c'). Hence [d Bc^] A=[d Bc^] A[d_B \hat c]_A = [d_B \hat c']_A.

General abstract


Let 0A fB gC 00 \to A_\bullet \stackrel{f}{\to} B_\bullet \stackrel{g}{\to} C_\bullet \to 0 be a short exact sequence of chain complexes in some abelian category 𝒜\mathcal{A}. Then for all nn \in \mathbb{Z} there are natural connecting homomorphisms :H n(C)H n1(A)\partial : H_n(C) \to H_{n-1}(A) such that we have a long exact sequence of the form

gH n+1(C)H n(A)fH n(B)gH n(C)H n1(A)f \cdots \stackrel{g}{\to} H_{n+1}(C) \stackrel{\partial}{\to} H_n(A) \stackrel{f}{\to} H_n(B) \stackrel{g}{\to} H_n(C) \stackrel{\partial}{\to} H_{n-1}(A) \stackrel{f}{\to} \cdots

in chain homology.


Applying the snake lemma to the commuting diagram

0 0 0 0 Z nA Z nB Z nC 0 A n B n C n 0 d d d 0 A n1 B n1 C n1 0 0 A n1im(d)(A n) B n1im(d)(B n) C n1im(d)(C n) 0 0 0 0 \array{ && 0 && 0 && 0 \\ && \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ 0 &\to& Z_n A &\to& Z_n B &\to & Z_n C \\ && \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ 0 &\to& A_n &\to& B_n &\to & C_n &\to & 0 \\ && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{d}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{d}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{d}} \\ 0 &\to& A_{n-1} &\to& B_{n-1} &\to & C_{n-1} &\to& 0 \\ && \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ 0 &\to& \frac{A_{n-1}}{im(d)(A_n)} &\to& \frac{B_{n-1}}{im(d)(B_n)} &\to & \frac{C_{n-1}}{im(d)(C_n)} &\to & 0 \\ && \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ && 0 && 0 && 0 }

shows that the rows in the commuting diagram

A nim(d)(A n+1) B nim(d)(B n+1) C nim(d)(C n+1) 0 d d d 0 Z n1A f Z n1B g Z n1C \array{ && \frac{A_{n}}{im(d)(A_{n+1})} &\to& \frac{B_{n}}{im(d)(B_{n+1})} &\to & \frac{C_{n}}{im(d)(C_{n+1})} &\to & 0 \\ && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{d}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{d}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{d}} \\ 0 &\to& Z_{n-1} A &\stackrel{f}{\to}& Z_{n-1} B &\stackrel{g}{\to}& Z_{n-1} C }

are exact sequences. Therefore applying the snake lemma to this, once more, yields the desired long exact sequence.



The connecting homomorphism of the long exact sequence in homology induced from short exact sequences of the form

A/A ntor()nAA/(nA) A/A_{n tor} \stackrel{(-)\cdot n}{\to} A \to A/(n A)

is called a Bockstein homomorphism.


Relation to homotopy fiber sequences

The connecting homomorphism in a long exact sequence in homology induced from a short exact sequence A fB C A_\bullet \stackrel{f}{\to} B_\bullet \to C_\bullet is equivalently the image under the homology group functor of the homotopy cofiber sequence induced by ff. This is discussed in detail at mapping cone in the section homology exact sequences.


For instance section 1.3 of

Last revised on February 11, 2013 at 22:59:01. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.