Comparative MS/MS studies of singly and doubly charged electrospray ionization (ESI) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) precursor peptide ions are described. The spectra from these experiments have been evaluated with particular emphasis on the data quality for subsequent data processing and protein/amino acid sequence identification. It is shown that, once peptide ions are formed by ESI or MALDI, their charge state, as well as the collision energy, is the main parameter determining the quality of collision-induced dissociation (CID) MS/MS fragmentation spectra of a given peptide. CID-MS/MS spectra of singly charged peptides obtained on a hybrid quadrupole orthogonal time-of-flight mass spectrometer resemble very closely spectra obtained by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization post-source decay time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-PSD-TOFMS). On the other hand, comparison of CID-MS/MS spectra of either singly or doubly charged ion species shows no dependence on whether ions have been formed by ESI or MALDI. This observation confirms that, at the time of precursor ion selection, further mass analysis is effectively decoupled from the desorption/ionization event. Since MALDI ions are predominantly formed as singly charged species and ESI ions as doubly charged, the associated difference in the spectral quality of MS/MS spectra as described here imposes direct consequences on data processing, database searching using ion fragmentation data, and de novo sequencing when ionization techniques are changed. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.