Experimental Determination of Activation Energies for Covalent Bond Formation via Ion/Ion Reactions and Competing Processes

22 January 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The combination of ion/ion chemistry with commercially available ion mobility/mass spectrometry systems has allowed rich structural information to be obtained for gaseous protein ions. Recently, the simple modification of such an instrument with an electrospray reagent source has allowed three-dimensional gas-phase interrogation of protein structures through covalent and non-covalent interactions coupled with collision cross section measurements. However, the energetics of these processes have not yet been studied quantitatively. In this work, previously developed Monte Carlo simulations of ion temperatures inside traveling wave ion guides are used to characterize the energetics of the transition state of activated ubiquitin cation/reagent anion long-lived complexes formed via ion/ion reactions. The ΔH and ΔS of major processes observed from collisional activation of long-lived gas phase ion/ion complexes, namely collision induced unfolding (CIU), covalent bond formation, or neutral loss of the anionic reagent via intramolecular proton transfer, were determined. Covalent bond formation via ion/ion complexes was found to be significantly lower energy compared to unfolding and bond cleavage. ΔG of activation of all three processes lie between 55 and 75 kJ/mol, easily accessible with moderate collisional activation. Bond formation is favored over reagent loss at lower activation energies, whereas reagent loss becomes competitive at higher collision energies. Though ΔG are between CIU of a precursor ion and covalent bond formation of its ion/ion product complex are comparable, our data suggest covalent bond formation does not require extensive isomerization, supporting evidence from previous structural studies that these ion/ion reactions measure compact gas phase structures.


Native Mass Spectrometry
Ion/Ion Reactions
ion mobility
collision induced unfolding
activation energy

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information final


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