Mass spectrometry-based identification of ortho-, meta- and para-isomers using infrared ion spectroscopy†
Distinguishing positional isomers, such as compounds having different substitution patterns on an aromatic ring, presents a significant challenge for mass spectrometric analyses and is a frequently encountered difficulty in, for example, drug metabolism research. In contrast to mass spectrometry, IR spectroscopy is a well-known and powerful tool in the distinction of ortho-, meta- and para-isomers, but is not applicable to low-abundance compounds in complex mixtures such as often targeted in bioanalytical studies. Here, we demonstrate the use of infrared ion spectroscopy (IRIS) as a novel method that facilitates the differentiation between positional isomers of disubstituted phenyl-containing compounds and that can be applied in mass spectrometry-based complex mixture analysis. By analyzing different substitution patterns over several sets of isomeric compounds, we show that IRIS is able to consistently probe the diagnostic CH out-of-plane vibrations that are sensitive to positional isomerism. We show that these modes are largely independent of the chemical functionality contained in the ring substituents and of the type of ionization. We also show that IRIS spectra often identify the positional isomer directly, even in the absence of reference spectra obtained from physical standards or from computational prediction. We foresee that this method will be generally applicable to the identification of disubstituted phenyl-containing compounds.