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J Mass Spectrom. 2013 May;48(5):576-86. doi: 10.1002/jms.3180.

Identification tree based on fragmentation rules for structure elucidation of organophosphorus esters by electrospray mass spectrometry.

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  • 1UPMC, IPCM/CSOB, UMR 7201, 4 place Jussieu, 75252, Paris Cedex, France.

Abstract

Organophosphorus compounds have played important roles as pesticides, chemical warfare agents and extractors of radioactive material. Structural elucidation of phosphonates poses a particular challenge because their initial forms can be hydrolyzed, thus, degradation products may predominate in samples acquired in the field. The analysis of non-volatile organophosphorus compounds and their degradation products is possible using electrospray tandem mass spectrometry ESI-MS/MS. Here, we present a generic strategy that allows the unambiguous identification of substituents for two families of organophosphorus compounds: the phosphonates and phosphates. General fragmentation rules were deduced based on the study of decomposition pathways of 55 organophosphorus esters, including examples found in the literature. Multistage MS (MS(n)) experiments at high resolution in a hybrid mass spectrometer provide accurate mass measurements, whereas collision-induced dissociation experiments in a triple quadrupole give access to small fragment ions. The creation of a specific nomenclature for each possible structure of organophosphorus compound, depending on the alkyl side chain linked to the oxygen, was achieved by applying these fragmentation rules. This led to the creation of an 'identification tree' based upon the unique consecutive decomposition pathways uncovered for each individual compound. Hence, seven structural motifs were created that orient an unequivocal identification using the 'identification tree'. Despite the similar structures of the ensemble of phosphate and phosphonate esters, distinct identifications based upon characteristic neutral losses and diagnostic fragment ions were possible in all cases.

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID:
23674282
[PubMed]
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