Dehydration of peptide [M + H]+ ions in the gas phase

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The loss of water from protonated peptides was studied using [18O]-labeling of the C-terminal carboxyl group. The structures (including the location of the isotopic label) of first-generation product ions were examined by sequential product ion scanning (MS3 and MS4) using a hybrid sector/quadrupole mass spectrometer. Water loss may involve carboxylic acid groups, side-chain hydroxyls, or peptide backbone oxygens. Although one of these three pathways often predominates, more than one dehydration route can be operative for a single peptide structure. When peptide backbone oxygen is lost, the dehydration can occur at one or two primary sites along the backbone, with the location of the site(s) varying among peptides. When water loss involves the C-terminal carboxyl group, the resulting ion may undergo extensive intraionic oxygen isotope exchange. This evidence for complex intraionic interactions further emphasizes the significance of gas-phase conformation in determining the fragmentations of peptide ions.