A general approach to the screening and confirmation of tryptamines and phenethylamines by mass spectral fragmentation

Bo Hong Chen, Ju Tsung Liu, Wen Xiong Chen, Hung Ming Chen, Cheng Huang Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Certain characteristic fragmentations of tryptamines (indoleethylamine) and phenethylamines are described. Based on the GC-EI/MS, LC-ESI/MS and MALDI/TOFMS, the mass fragmentations of 13 standard compounds, including α-methyltryptamine (AMT), N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 5-methoxy-α-methyltryptamine (5-MeO-AMT), N,N-diethyltryptamine (DET), N,N-dipropyltryptamine (DPT), N,N-dibutyltryptamine (DBT), N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (DIPT), 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), 5-methoxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (5-MeO-DIPT), methamphetamine (MAMP), 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (3,4-MDA), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (3,4-MDMA) and 2-methylamino-1-(3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl)butane (MBDB), were compared. As a result, the parent ions of these analytes were hard to be obtained by GC/MS whereas the protonated molecular ions can be observed clearly by means of ESI/MS and MALDI/TOFMS. Furthermore, two major characteristic fragmentations, namely and α-cleavage ([M + H]+ → [3-vinylindole]+) and β-cleavage ([M + H]+ → [CH2N+RN1RN2]), are produced when the ESI and MALDI modes are used, respectively. In the case of ESI/MS, the fragment obtained from α-cleavage is the major process. In contrast to this, in the case of MALDI/TOFMS, the major fragment is produced via β-cleavage. The ionization efficiency and fragments formed from either α- or β-cleavages are closely related to the degree of alkylation of the side chain nitrogen in both cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-517
Number of pages6
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Jan 15
Externally publishedYes


  • ESI/MS
  • GC/MS
  • Phenethylamine
  • Tryptamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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