Electron transfer induced side-chain cleavage in tryptophan facilitated through potassium induced transition-state stabilization in the gas-phase
Fragmentation of transient negative ions of tryptophan molecules formed through electron transfer in collisions with potassium atoms is presented for the first time in the laboratory collision energy range of 20 up to 100 eV. In the unimolecular decomposition process, the dominating side-chain fragmentation channel is assigned to the dehydrogenated indoline anion, in contrast to dissociative electron attachment of free low-energy electrons to tryptophan. The role of the collision complex formed by the potassium cation and tryptophan negative ion in the electron transfer process is significant for the mechanisms that operate at lower collision energies. At those collision times, on the order of a few tens of fs, the collision complex may not only influence the lifetime of the anion but also stabilize specific transition states and thus alter the fragmentation patterns considerably. DFT calculations, at the BHandHLYP/6-311++G(3df,2pd) level of theory, are used to explore potential reaction pathways and the evolvement of the charge distribution along those.