Ultraviolet photofragmentation of biomolecular ions



Mass spectrometric identification of all types of molecules relies on the observation and interpretation of ion fragmentation patterns. Peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids that are often found as components of complex biological samples represent particularly important challenges. The most common strategies for fragmenting biomolecular ions include low- and high-energy collisional activation, post-source decay, and electron capture or transfer dissociation. Each of these methods has its own idiosyncrasies and advantages but encounters problems with some types of samples. Novel fragmentation methods that can offer improvements are always desirable. One approach that has been under study for years but is not yet incorporated into a commercial instrument is ultraviolet photofragmentation. This review discusses experimental results on various biological molecules that have been generated by several research groups using different light wavelengths and mass analyzers. Work involving short-wavelength vacuum ultraviolet light is particularly emphasized. The characteristics of photofragmentation are examined and its advantages summarized. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Mass Spec Rev 28:425–447, 2009