Tandem mass spectrometry of poly(ethylene imine)s by electrospray ionization (ESI) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI).J Mass Spectrom. 2012 Jan; 47(1):105-14.JM
In this contribution, linear poly(ethylene imine) (PEI) polymers, which are of importance in gene delivery, are investigated in detail by using electrospray ionization-quadrupole-time of flight (ESI-Q-TOF) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS). The analyzed PEIs with different end groups were synthesized using the polymerization of substituted 2-oxazoline via a living cationic ring-opening polymerization (CROP) and a subsequent hydrolysis under acidic conditions. The main goal of this study was to identify linear PEI polymers in a detailed way to gain information about their fragmentation pathways. For this purpose, a detailed characterization of three different linear PEIs was performed by using ESI-Q-TOF and MALDI-TOF MS in combination with collision-induced dissociation (CID) experiments. In ESI-MS as well as MALDI-MS analysis, the obtained spectra of PEIs resulted in fitting mass distributions for the investigated PEIs. In the tandem MS analysis, a 1,2-hydride shift with a charge-remote rearrangement via a four-membered cyclic transition state, as well as charge-induced fragmentation reactions, was proposed as the main fragmentation mechanisms according to the obtained fragmentation products from the protonated parent peaks. In addition, heterolytic and homolytic cleavages were proposed as alternative fragmentation pathways. Moreover, a 1,4-hydrogen elimination was proposed to explain different fragmentation products obtained from the sodiated parent peaks.