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Formation of the Ions of Methylindoles in APCI Mass Spectrometry

ISRN Spectroscopy
Publication Date
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Pharmacology


Indoles are common building blocks of new pharmacologically active chemical entities in drug discovery and development. Due to their poor ionization in electrospray ionization mass spectrometry, atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) is the method of choice for LC-MS analysis of simple indoles. Three types of ions, including [M − 1]+, , and [M + H]+, can be observed in APCI but the relative intensities of these ions may vary depending upon the structural properties of the indoles and the mass spectral source conditions. We report in this paper the observation of [M − 1]+ ions for methylindoles in an Agilent multimode ion source and the investigation into their formation. By means of tandem mass spectrometric experiments performed on a Thermo Fisher Scientific LTQ ion trap mass spectrometer equipped with an APCI source, it was found that [M − 1]+ ions can be generated from ions upon-collision induced dissociation. This suggests that the [M − 1]+ ions might be the in-source fragmentation product of ions. It was proposed that both [M − 1]+ and ions are probably generated through a charge transfer mechanism while [M + H]+ ions are the product of proton transfer. The basicity of the analytes might play an important role in dictating which ionization mechanism is operative. For 3-methylindole, the charge transfer process appears to be more dominant than for 2-methylindole since the former is less basic. As expected, substituting electron withdrawing groups on 3-methylindole, such as fluorine, promotes charge transfer and vice versa. Therefore, it is expected that formation of the [M − 1]+ ions is more pronounced for less basic methylindoles.

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