Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

Structure and reactivity of the N-acetyl-cysteine radical cation and anion: does radical migration occur?

PMID 21952893


The structure and reactivity of the N-acetyl-cysteine radical cation and anion were studied using ion-molecule reactions, infrared multi-photon dissociation (IRMPD) spectroscopy, and density functional theory (DFT) calculations. The radical cation was generated by first nitrosylating the thiol of N-acetyl-cysteine followed by the homolytic cleavage of the S-NO bond in the gas phase. IRMPD spectroscopy coupled with DFT calculations revealed that for the radical cation the radical migrates from its initial position on the sulfur atom to the α-carbon position, which is 2.5 kJ mol(-1) lower in energy. The radical migration was confirmed by time-resolved ion-molecule reactions. These results are in contrast with our previous study on cysteine methyl ester radical cation (Osburn et al., Chem. Eur. J. 2011, 17, 873-879) and the study by Sinha et al. for cysteine radical cation (Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2010, 12, 9794-9800) where the radical was found to stay on the sulfur atom as formed. A similar approach allowed us to form a hydrogen-deficient radical anion of N-acetyl-cysteine, (M - 2H)( •- ). IRMPD studies and ion-molecule reactions performed on the radical anion showed that the radical remains on the sulfur, which is the initial and more stable (by 63.6 kJ mol(-1)) position, and does not rearrange.