Solvent effect on analyte charge state, signal intensity, and stability in negative ion electrospray mass spectrometry; implications for the mechanism of negative ion formation

  • Cole R
  • Harrata A
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Department of Chemistry, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA The effect of solvent composition on negative ion electrospray ionization (ESI) mass spectrometry was examined. The onset potentials for ES1 of a series of chlorinated solvents and methanol were found to be within the range predicted by D. P. H. Smith, based on differences in the surface tension of the solvents used. The tendency toward electric discharge decreased with increasing percent weight of chlorine in the solvent. This effect has been attributed to an increasing propensity for electron capture for more highly chlorinated solvents. Addition of the electron scavenger gas SF, was even more effective at suppressing corona discharge phenomena. In a comparison of ultimate signal intensity obtainable for a test analyte in 10% methanol, the highest signal, which was stable over the widest range of temperatures, was exhibited by chloroform compared to dichloromethane, 1,2-dichloroethane, carbon tetrachloride, and methanol (100%). Chloroform, thus, is a recommended solvent for negative ion electrospray mass spectrometry (ES/MS) when solubility is not a limiting issue. Solvent polarity was shown to exhibit a profound influence on the distribution of charge states in negative ion ES/MS. For both chlorinated and nonchlorinated organic solvents, the higher the solution dielectric constant, the more the charge-state distribution is shifted toward higher charge states. These observations build on the "electrophoretic" mechanism of droplet charging. Solvents with high solution dielectric constants are considered to be most effective at stabilizing multiply charged ions (where charge separation is greatest), and they are likely to increase the level of droplet charging. Solvents with high basicities (gas phase and solution phase) and high proton affinities, yet low dielectric constants, favor lower charge states in ES mass spectra of lipid A and cardiolipin from Escherichia coli. This indicates that gas-phase processes and solvent basicity contribute much less toward ion formation than solution-phase solvation via preferred orientation of the solvent dipole. © 1993 American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

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  • Richard B. Cole

  • A. Kamel Harrata

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