High-throughput approaches towards the definitive identification of pharmaceutical drug metabolites. 1. Evidence for an ortho effect on the fragmentation of 4-benzenesulfinyl-3-methylphenylamine using electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry



A 50 m/z unit loss from protonated 4-benzenesulfinyl-3-methylphenylamine has been observed and investigated using electrospray ionisation quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometry (ESI-QIT-MS). It was hypothesised that the specific fragmentation was affected by the presence of an ortho methyl group in relation to the sulfoxide functionality, i.e. an ortho effect influences the preferred dissociation pathway. This was because the des-methyl homologue did not display a 50 m/z unit loss. This fragmentation was shown to be a two-step process with sequential losses of a hydroxyl radical and a thiol radical. Molecular modelling calculations showed that the most favourable site of protonation for 4-benzenesulfinyl-3-methylphenylamine was the sulfoxide oxygen, which would facilitate the loss of a hydroxyl radical. Subsequent deuterium-exchange experiments confirmed that the loss was a hydroxyl radical and afforded definitive assignment of the site of protonation. Furthermore, the involvement of a single exchangeable hydrogen atom in the overall 50 m/z unit loss was demonstrated. Thus, supportive evidence was provided for the involvement of the ortho methyl group in the second stage of the fragmentation, leading to the loss of the thiol radical. Accurate mass measurements, performed using electrospray ionisation Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (ESI-FTICR-MS), verified the elemental formulae of the individual losses. The ion structure following the 50 m/z unit loss was proposed to be a protonated aminofluorene and was supported by comparing the product ion spectrum of commercially available protonated 2-aminofluorene with the MS4 data of protonated 4-benzenesulfinyl-3-methylphenylamine. Fragmentation mechanisms are proposed. The relevance of the loss with regards to pharmaceutical drug metabolite identification is discussed. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.