Determination of flavone, flavonol, and flavanone aglycones by negative ion liquid chromatography electrospray ion trap mass spectrometry

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Abstract

Eleven naturally occurring flavonoid aglycones, belonging to the representative flavone, flavonol, and flavanone types were separated by high performance liquid chromatography and analyzed on-line with negative ion electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS). In order to resolve the MS/MS spectra obtained, each compound was reinvestigated by direct loop injections using an ion trap mass spectrometer. The MS n spectra obtained allowed us to propose plausible schemes for their fragmentation supported by the analysis of five complementary synthetic flavonoid aglycones. The negative ion ESI-MS/MS behavior of the different aglycones investigated in this study revealed interesting differences when compared with the previously described patterns obtained using various ionization techniques in positive ion. Thus, concerning the retro Diels-Alder (RDA) fragmentation pathways, several structurally informative anions appeared highly specific of the negative ion mode. In addition, a new lactone-type structure, instead of a ketene, was proposed for a classic RDA diagnostic ion. We also observed unusual CO, CO2, and C3O2 losses which appear to be characteristic of the negative ion mode. All these results and these unusual neutral losses show that the negative ion mode was a powerful complementary tool of the positive ion mode for the structural characterization of flavonoid aglycones by ESI-MS/MS.