Investigation of some biologically relevant redox reactions using electrochemical mass spectrometry interfaced by desorption electrospray ionization

Mei Lu, Chloe Wolff, Weidong Cui, Hao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Recently we have shown that, as a versatile ionization technique, desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) can serve as a useful interface to combine electrochemistry (EC) with mass spectrometry (MS). In this study, the EC/DESI-MS method has been further applied to investigate some aqueous phase redox reactions of biological significance, including the reduction of peptide disulfide bonds and nitroaromatics as well as the oxidation of phenothiazines. It was found that knotted/enclosed disulfide bonds in the peptides apamin and endothelin could be electrochemically cleaved. Subsequent tandem MSanalysis of the resulting reduced peptide ions using collision-induced dissociation (CID) and electron-capture dissociation (ECD) gave rise to extensive fragment ions, providing a fast protocol for sequencing peptides with complicated disulfide bond linkages. Flunitrazepam and clonazepam, a class of nitroaromatic drugs, are known to undergo reduction into amines which was proposed to involve nitroso and N-hydroxyl intermediates. Now in this study, these corresponding intermediate ions were successfully intercepted and their structures were confirmed by CID. This provides mass spectrometric evidence for the mechanism of the nitro to amine conversion process during nitroreduction, an important redox reaction involved in carcinogenesis. In addition, the well-known oxidation reaction of chlorpromazine was also examined. The putative transient one-electron transfer product, the chlorpromazine radical cation (m/z 318), was captured by MS, for the first time, and its structure was also verified by CID. In addition to these observations, some features of the DESI-interfaced electrochemical mass spectrometry were discussed, such as simple instrumentation and the lack of background signal. These results further demonstrate the feasibility of EC/DESI-MS for the study of the biology-relevant redox chemistry and would find applications in proteomics and drug development research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-365
Number of pages11
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


  • Chlorpromazine radical cation
  • Desorption electrospray ionization
  • Disulfide bond reduction
  • Electrochemistry
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Nitroreduction mechanism


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigation of some biologically relevant redox reactions using electrochemical mass spectrometry interfaced by desorption electrospray ionization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this