Online Investigation of Aqueous-Phase Electrochemical Reactions by Desorption Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry

Mei Lu, Yong Liu, Roy Helmy, Gary E. Martin, Howard D. Dewald, Hao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Electrochemistry (EC) combined with mass spectrometry (MS) is a powerful tool for elucidation of electrochemical reaction mechanisms. However, direct online analysis of electrochemical reaction in aqueous phase was rarely explored. This paper presents the online investigation of several electrochemical reactions with biological relevance in the aqueous phase, such as nitrosothiol reduction, carbohydrate oxidation, and carbamazepine oxidation using desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DESI-MS). It was found that electroreduction of nitrosothiols [e.g.; nitrosylated insulin B (13-23)] leads to free thiols by loss of NO, as confirmed by online MS analysis for the first time. The characteristic mass shift of 29 Da and the reduced intensity provide a quick way to identify nitrosylated species. Equally importantly, upon collision-induced dissociation (CID), the reduced peptide ion produces more fragment ions than its nitrosylated precursor ion (presumably the backbone fragmentation cannot compete with the facile NO loss for the precursor ion), thus facilitating peptide sequencing. In the case of saccharide oxidation, it was found that glucose undergoes electro-oxidation to produce gluconic acid at alkaline pH, but not at neutral and acidic pHs. Such a pH-dependent electrochemical behavior was also observed for disaccharides such as maltose and cellobiose. Upon electrochemical oxidation, carbamazepine was found to undergo ring contraction and amide bond cleavage, which parallels the oxidative metabolism observed for this drug in leucocytes. The mechanistic information of these redox reactions revealed by EC/DESI-MS would be of value in nitroso-proteome research and carbohydrate/drug metabolic studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1676-1685
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 15 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Spectroscopy


  • Carbohydrate oxidation
  • Desorption electrospray ionization
  • Electrochemistry
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Nitrosothiol reduction


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