Cylindrospermopsin (CYN) belongs to a group of toxins produced by several strains of freshwater cyanobacteria. It is a compact zwitterionic molecule composed of a uracil section and a tricyclic guanidinium portion with a primarily hepatotoxic effect. Using low multi-stage and high-resolution mass spectrometry, the gas-phase reactions of this toxin have been investigated. Our data show that collision-induced dissociation (CID) spectra of CYN are dominated by neutral losses, and three major initial fragmentation pathways are clearly distinguishable. Interestingly, comparative analysis of protonated and cationizated molecules showed a significant difference in the balance of the SO3 and terminal ring elimination. These data indicate that the differential ion mobility of H+, Li+, Na+ and K+ leads to different fragmentation pathways, giving rise to mass spectra with different profiles. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.