Fragmentation of the γ-aminobutyric acid molecule (GABA, NH2(CH2)3COOH) following collisions with slow O6+ ions (v≈0.3 a.u.) was studied in the gas phase by a combined experimental and theoretical approach. In the experiments, a multicoincidence detection method was used to deduce the charge state of the GABA molecule before fragmentation. This is essential to unambiguously unravel the different fragmentation pathways. It was found that the molecular cations resulting from the collisions hardly survive the interaction and that the main dissociation channels correspond to formation of NH2CH2+, HCNH+, CH2CH2+, and COOH+ fragments. State-of-the-art quantum chemistry calculations allow different fragmentation mechanisms to be proposed from analysis of the relevant minima and transition states on the computed potential-energy surface. For example, the weak contribution at [M−18]+, where M is the mass of the parent ion, can be interpreted as resulting from H2O loss that follows molecular folding of the long carbon chain of the amino acid.
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