Evaluation of gas-phase rearrangement and competing fragmentation reactions on protein phosphorylation site assignment using collision induced dissociation-MS/MS and MS3

Anal Chem. 2008 Dec 15;80(24):9735-47. doi: 10.1021/ac801768s.


The development of strategies directed toward comprehensive analysis of the phosphoproteome have undoubtedly been facilitated by recent advances in the application of ion trap tandem mass spectrometry-based techniques for routine phosphopeptide identification. However, when multiple potential sites of phosphorylation exist within a phosphorylated peptide sequence, unambiguous characterization of the site of phosphorylation remains a significant challenge. Here, the gas-phase fragmentation reactions of a series of 33 synthetic phospho-serine, -threonine, and -tyrosine peptides containing multiple potential phosphorylation sites have been examined using collision induced dissociation (CID) and multistage tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS and MS(3)) in a linear quadrupole ion trap. From this study, 15 of the peptides (45%) gave rise to product ions that were formed following initial transfer of a phosphate group from the phosphorylated residue to an unmodified hydroxyl-containing amino acid residue upon CID-MS/MS. The propensity for this rearrangement was found to be highly dependent on the precursor ion charge state and amino acid composition (i.e, proton mobility) of the peptide and was observed predominantly for peptides under "nonmobile" or "partially mobile" protonation conditions. The observation of these rearrangement reactions and/or the lack of product ions that provided definitive evidence for the correct site of phosphorylation, limited the ability to unambiguously assign the correct site of phosphorylation to only 12 of the 33 peptides (36%). Furthermore, the observation of competing fragmentation reactions for the neutral loss of 98 Da from these precursor ions (i.e., the loss of H(3)PO(4) versus the combined losses of HPO(3) and H(2)O) indicates that CID-MS(3) of [M + nH - 98](n+) ions may not be used for unambiguous phosphorylation site localization.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Gases
  • Ions
  • Phase Transition*
  • Phosphopeptides / chemistry*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protons
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*


  • Gases
  • Ions
  • Phosphopeptides
  • Protons