Cyclophosphamide is a well-known anticancer agent acting by means of DNA alkylation. Associated with its tumor selectivity, it also possesses a wide spectrum of toxicities. As the requirement of metabolic activation before cyclophosphamide exerts either its therapeutic or toxic effects is well recognized, research aiming at elucidating the pathways that lead to the activation of this drug is of key importance. This has created the necessity for developing an effective analytical method for detecting cyclophosphamide and its breakdown products. In this paper, an Acquity TQ tandem quadrupole mass spectrometer equipped with electrospray ionization in positive-ion mode was employed for detecting cyclophosphamide in its protonated form. The full-scan mass spectrum of cyclophosphamide shows two ion clusters displaying the characteristic isotopic pattern of two chlorine atoms and assigned as sodiated cyclophosphamide, [CP + Na]+, and protonated cyclophosphamide, [CP + H]+ or PCP. With the aid of quantum mechanical DFT calculation, free energy differences in the gas phase among PCP protomers were computed with respect to the most stable protomer being protonated on the 2-oxide oxygen of the 1,3,2-oxazaphosphorine-2-oxide ring. In addition, the interconversion mechanisms among the different protomers were also proposed by intercepting the corresponding transition states in the gas phase. Collision-induced dissociation (CID) of PCP generated six characteristic product ions. Fragmentation mechanisms were proposed and supported by computation. The calculated energy barriers for all of the located transition states were found to be accessible under the reported experimental conditions.
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