Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 2135-2143

First online:

Fragmentation of doubly-protonated Pro-His-Xaa tripeptides: Formation of b 2 2+ ions

  • Michaela Knapp-MohammadyAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biophysics, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
  • , Alex B. YoungAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Toronto
  • , Béla PaizsAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biophysics, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) Email author 
  • , Alex G. HarrisonAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Toronto Email author 


When ionized by electrospray from acidic solutions, the tripeptides Pro-His-Xaa (Xaa=Gly, Ala, Leu) form abundant doubly-protonated ions, [M+2H]2+. Collision-induced dissociation (CID) of these doubly-protonated species results, in part, in formation of b 2 2+ ions, which fragment further by loss of CO to form a 2 2+ ions; the latter fragment by loss of CO to form the Pro and His iminium [immonium is commonly used in peptide MS work] ions. Although larger doubly-charged b ions are known, this represents the first detailed study of b 2 2+ ions in CID of small doubly protonated peptides. The most abundant CID products of the studied doubly-protonated peptides arise mainly in charge separation involving two primary fragmentation channels, formation of the b 2 /y 1 pair and formation of the a 1 /y 2 pair. Combined molecular dynamics and density functional theory calculations are used to gain insight into the structures and fragmentation pathways of doubly-protonated Pro-His-Gly including the energetics of potential protonation sites, backbone cleavages, post-cleavage charge-separation reactions and the isomeric structures of b 2 2+ ions. Three possible structures are considered for the b 2 2+ ions: the oxazolone, diketopiperazine, and fused ring isomers. The last is formed by cleavage of the His-Gly amide bond on a pathway that is initiated by nucleophilic attack of one of the His side-chain imidazole nitrogens. Our calculations indicate the b 2 2+ ion population is dominated by the oxazolone and/or fused ring isomers.