The phosphoramidate nerve agent tabun inhibits butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) and acetylcholinesterase by making a covalent bond on the active site serine. The adduct loses an alkyl group in a process called aging. The mechanism of aging of the tabun adduct is controversial. Some studies claim that aging proceeds through deamination, whereas crystal structure studies show aging by O-dealkylation. Our goal was to develop a method that clearly distinguishes between deamination and O-dealkylation. We began by studying the tetraisopropyl pyrophosphoramide adduct of BChE because this adduct has two P-N bonds. Mass spectra showed that the P-N bonds were stable during trypsin digestion at pH 8 but were cleaved during pepsin digestion at pH 2. The P-N bond in tabun was also acid labile, whereas the P-O bond was stable. A scheme to distinguish aging by deamination from aging by O-dealkylation was based on the acid labile P-N bond. BChE was inhibited with Sp- and Rp-tabun thiocholine nerve agent model compounds to make adducts identical to those of tabun with known stereochemistry. After aging and digestion with pepsin at pH 2, peptide FGES198AGAAS from Sp-tabun thiocholine had a mass of 902.2 m/z in negative mode, indicating that it had aged by deamination, whereas peptide FGES198AGAAS from Rp-tabun thiocholine had a mass of 874.2 m/z in negative mode, indicating that it had aged by O-dealkylation. BChE inhibited by authentic, racemic tabun yielded both 902.2 and 874.2 m/z peptides, indicating that both stereoisomers reacted with BChE and aged either by deamination or dealkylation.
- Mass spectrometry
ASJC Scopus subject areas