Ions derived from negative electrospray ionization of polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimer generation 0.5 were subjected to ion trap tandem mass spectrometry. Ion/ion proton transfer reactions were used to manipulate the charge states of PAMAM precursor ions to form lower charge states from those initially formed by electrospray, as well as to facilitate the interpretation of the product ion mass spectra. Most of the products derived from dendrimer precursor ions could be rationalized by retro-Michael decomposition reactions. The dominant fragmentation channels are highly dependent on the composition of the counter-ions, which in this case are restricted to different numbers of sodium ions and protons, and whether the precursor ion is multiply charged or singly charged. An interpretation is given that is consistent with all of the observations made with the various anions associated with this study. The nature of the structural information that can be obtained via ion trap tandem mass spectrometry of the dendrimers is dependent on the types of precursor ions subjected to study. The tandem mass spectrometry data also provided information about the structure of faulty synthesis products present in the PAMAM dendrimer sample. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.