Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

Novel fragmentation pathways of anionic adducts of steroids formed by electrospray anion attachment involving regioselective attachment, regiospecific decompositions, charge-induced pathways, and ion-dipole complex intermediates.

PMID 22733166


The analysis of several bifunctional neutral steroids, 5-α-pregnane diol (5-α-pregnane-3α-20βdiol), estradiol (3,17α-dihydroxy-1,3,5(10)-estratriene), progesterone (4-pregnene-3,20-dione), lupeol (3β-hydroxy-20(29)-lupene), pregnenolone (5-pregnen-3β-ol-20-one), and pregnenolone acetate (5-pregnen-3β-ol-20-one acetate) was accomplished by negative ion electrospray mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) employing adduct formation with various anions: fluoride, bicarbonate, acetate, and chloride. Fluoride yielded higher abundances of anionic adducts and more substantial abundances of deprotonated molecules compared with other investigated anions. Collision-induced dissociation (CID) of precursor [M + anion](-) adducts of these steroids revealed that fluoride adduct [M + F](-) precursors first lose HF to produce [M - H](-) and then undergo consecutive decompositions to yield higher abundances of structurally-informative product ions than the other tested anions. In addition to charge-remote fragmentations, the majority of CID pathways of estradiol are deduced to occur via charge-induced fragmentation. Most interestingly, certain anions exhibit preferential attachment to a specific site on these bifunctional steroid molecules, which we are calling "regioselective anion attachment." Regioselective anion attachment is evidenced by subsequent regiospecific decomposition. Regioselective attachment of fluoride (and acetate) anions to low (and moderate) acidity functional groups of pregnenolone, respectively, is demonstrated using deuterated compounds. Moreover, the formation of unique intermediate ion-dipole complexes leading to novel fragmentation pathways of fluoride adducts of pregnenolone acetate, and bicarbonate adducts of d(4)-pregnenolone, are also discussed.