Oligoribonucleotides (RNA) and modified oligonucleotides were subjected to low-energy collision-induced dissociation in a hybrid quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer to investigate their fragmentation pathways. Only very restricted data are available on gas-phase dissociation of oligoribonucleotides and their analogs and the fundamental mechanistic aspects still need to be defined to develop mass spectrometry-based protocols for sequence identification. Such methods are needed, because chemically modified oligonucleotides can not be submitted to standard sequencing protocols. In contrast to the dissociation of DNA, dissociation of RNA was found to be independent of nucleobase loss and it is characterized by cleavage of the 5′-PO bond, resulting in the formation of c- and their complementary y-type ions. To evaluate the influence of different 2′-substituents, several modified tetraribonucleotides were analyzed. Oligoribonucleotides incorporating a 2′-methoxy-ribose or a 2′-fluoro-ribose show fragmentation that does not exhibit any preferred dissociation pathway because all different types of fragment ions are generated with comparable abundance. To analyze the role of the nucleobases in the fragmentation of the phosphodiester backbone, an oligonucleotide lacking the nucleobase at one position has been studied. Experiments indicated that the dissociation mechanism of RNA is not influenced by the nucleobase, thus, supporting a mechanism where dissociation is initiated by formation of an intramolecular cyclic transition state with the 2′-hydroxyl proton bridged to the 5′-phosphate oxygen. © 2005 American Society for Mass Spectrometry.
Tromp, J. M., & Schürch, S. (2005). Gas-phase dissociation of oligoribonucleotides and their analogs studied by electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry. Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 16(8), 1262–1268. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasms.2005.03.024