This work provides the first comparison of in-source collision-induced dissociation (CID) and beam-type CID spectra of emerging synthetic drugs on the same instrument to understand the fragmentation differences between the two techniques and to contribute to the scientific foundations of in-source CID.
In-source collision-induced dissociation (CID) is commonly used with single-stage high-resolution mass spectrometers to gather both a molecular formula and structural information through the collisional activation of analytes with residual background gas in the source region of the mass spectrometer; however, unlike tandem mass spectrometry, in-source CID does not involve an isolation step prior to collisional activation leading to a product ion spectrum composed of fragment ions from any analyte present during the activation event. In the current project, electrospray ionization–quadrupole time-of-flight (ESI-Q-TOF) mass spectrometry was used to generate product ion spectra from in-source CID and beam-type CID for a series of well-characterized fentanyl analogs and synthetic cathinones. A comparison between the fragmentation patterns and relative ion abundances for each technique was performed over a range of fragmentor offset voltages for in-source CID and a range of collision energies for beam-type CID. The results indicate that large fragmentor potentials for in-source CID tend to favor higher energy fragmentation pathways that result in both kinetically favored pathways and consecutive neutral losses, both of which produce more abundant lower mass product ions relative to beam-type CID. Although conditions can be found in which in-source CID and beam-type CID provide similar overall spectra, the in-source CID spectra tend to contain elevated noise and additional chemical background peaks relative to beam-type CID. (publisher abstract modified)
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