On the initial velocity of ions generated by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization and its effect on the calibration of delayed extraction time-of-flight mass spectra

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Abstract

A novel method was developed to measure the initial velocity of ions generated by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI). It is shown both experimentally and theoretically that with a delayed extraction (DE) technique, the flight time of an ion changes linearly with extraction delay. The initial velocity of the ion, a consequence of the desorption process, can be determined from the slope of this linear curve. Systematic study of the initial velocity was undertaken regarding its dependence on the matrix substance, molecular weight of the analyte, ion polarity, and wavelength of irradiation. It was found that the most important factor was the matrix material. Sinapinic acid and α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid matrices ejected slower peptide and protein ions than 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid or 3-hydroxypicolinic acid: ∼ 300 versus ∼ 550 m/s. Matrix ions themselves exhibited a similar order of initial velocities, but these were 15–40% higher than those of insulin ions. The molecular weight of protein samples (between 5 and 25 ku) was found to have little effect on the initial velocity, but for peptides below 5 ku a gradual transition was noted toward the velocity of the matrix ions. Also decreasing velocity with increasing molecular mass was observed for DNA samples in the 4–14-ku range. In the negative ion mode slightly lower velocities were observed than in the positive ion mode. No difference was found between 337- and 266-nm irradiation. Values of the initial velocities were used to correct systematic errors in the internal calibration observed in mass spectra with delayed extraction. These velocity corrections decrease mass errors substantially in the linear mode, in particular for multicomponent mixtures.