The elimination of water from the carboxyl group of protonated diglycine has been investigated by density functional theory calculations. The resulting structure is identical to the b(2) ion formed in the mass spectrometric fragmentation of protonated peptides (therefore named "b(2)" in this study). The most stable geometry of the fragment ion ("b(2)") is an O-protonated diketopiperazine. However, its formation is kinetically disfavored as it requires a free energy of 58.2 kcal/mol. The experimentally observed N-protonated oxazolone is 3.0 kcal/mol less stable. The lowest energy pathway for the formation of the "b(2)" ion requires a free energy of 37.5 kcal/mol and involves the proton transfer from the amide oxygen of protonated diglycine to the hydroxyl oxygen. Fragmentation initiated by proton transfer from the terminal nitrogen has also a comparable free energy of activation (39.4 kcal/mol). Proton transfer initiating the fragmentation, from the highly basic terminal nitrogen or amide oxygen to the less basic hydroxyl oxygen is feasible at energies reached in usual mass spectrometric experiments. Amide N-protonated diglycine structures are precursors of mainly y(1) ions rather than "b(2)" ions. In the lowest energy fragmentation channels, proton transfer to the hydroxylic oxygen, bond breaking and formation of an oxazolone ring occur concertedly but asynchronously. Proton transfer to hydroxyl oxygen and cleavage of the corresponding C-O bond take place at the early stages of the fragmentation step, while ring closure to form an oxazolone geometry occurs at the later stages of the transition. The experimentally observed low kinetic energy release is expected to be due to the existence of a strongly hydrogen bonded protonated oxazolone-water complex in the exit channel. Whereas the threshold energy for "b(2)" ion formation (37.1 kcal/mol) is lower than for the y(1) ion (38.4 kcal/mol), the former requires a tight transition state with an activation entropy, DeltaSdouble dagger = -1.2 cal/mol.K and the latter has a loose transition state with DeltaSdouble dagger = +8.8 cal/mol.K. This leads to y(1) being the major fragment ion over a wide energy range. (C) 2003 American Society for Mass Spectrometry.