Fragmentation of oxime and silyl oxime ether odd-electron positive ions by the McLafferty rearrangement: New insights on structural factors that promote α,β fragmentation

Sébastien Laulhé, Bogdan Bogdanov, Leah M. Johannes, Osvaldo Gutierrez, Jason G. Harrison, Dean J. Tantillo, Xiang Zhang, Michael H. Nantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The McLafferty rearrangement is an extensively studied fragmentation reaction for the odd-electron positive ions from a diverse range of functional groups and molecules. Here, we present experimental and theoretical results of 12 model compounds that were synthesized and investigated by GC-TOF MS and density functional theory calculations. These compounds consisted of three main groups: carbonyls, oximes and silyl oxime ethers. In all electron ionization mass spectra, the fragment ions that could be attributed to the occurrence of a McLafferty rearrangement were observed. For t-butyldimethylsilyl oxime ethers with oxygen in a β-position, the McLafferty rearrangement was accompanied by loss of the t-butyl radical. The various mass spectra showed that the McLafferty rearrangement is relatively enhanced compared with other primary fragmentation reactions by the following factors: oxime versus carbonyl, oxygen versus methylene at the β-position and ketone versus aldehyde. Calculations predict that the stepwise mechanism is favored over the concerted mechanism for all but one compound. For carbonyl compounds, C-C bond breaking was the rate-determining step. However, for both the oximes and t-butyldimethylsilyl oxime ethers with oxygen at the β-position, the hydrogen transfer step was rate limiting, whereas with a CH 2 group at the β-position, the C-C bond breaking was again rate determining. n-Propoxy-acetaldehyde, bearing an oxygen atom at the β-position, is the only case that was predicted to proceed through a concerted mechanism. The synthesized oximes exist as both the (E)- and (Z)-isomers, and these were separable by GC. In the mass spectra of the two isomers, fragment ions that were generated by the McLafferty rearrangement were observed. Finally, fragment ions corresponding to the McLafferty reverse charge rearrangement were observed for all compounds at varying relative ion intensities compared with the conventional McLafferty rearrangement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-686
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Mass Spectrometry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Computational study
  • Concerted
  • Silyl oxime ethers
  • Stepwise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Spectroscopy


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