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Real-Time Monitoring of In Situ Gas-Phase H/D Exchange Reactions of Cations by Atmospheric Pressure Helium Plasma Ionization Mass Spectrometry (HePI-MS)

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journal contribution
posted on 07.01.2014, 00:00 by Athula B. Attygalle, Rekha Gangam, Julius Pavlov
An enclosed atmospheric-pressure helium-plasma ionization (HePI-MS) source avoids, or minimizes, undesired back-exchange reactions usually encountered during deuterium incorporation experiments under ambient-pressure open-source conditions. A simple adaptation of an ESI source provides an economical way of conducting gas phase hydrogen/deuterium (H/D) exchange reactions (HDX) in real time without the need for complicated hardware modifications. For example, the spectrum of [2H8]­toluene recorded under exposed ambient conditions showed the base peak at m/z 96 due to fast leaching of ring hydrogens because of interactions with H2O vapor present in the open source. Such D/H exchanges are rapidly reversed if the deuterium-depleted [2H8]­toluene is exposed to D2O vapor. In addition to the enumeration of labile protons, our procedure enables the identification of protonation sites in molecules unambiguously, by the number of H/D exchanges observed in real time. For example, molecules such as tetrahydrofuran and pyridine protonate at the heteroatom and consequently undergo only one H/D exchange, whereas ethylbenzene, which protonates at a ring position of the aromatic ring, undergoes six H/D exchanges. In addition, carbocations generated in situ by in-source fragmentation of precursor protonated species, such as benzyl alcohol, do not undergo any rapid H/D exchanges. Because radical cations, second-generation cations (ions formed by losing a small molecule from a precursor ion), or those formed by hydride abstraction do not undergo rapid H/D exchanges, our technique provides a way to distinguish these ions from protonated molecules.