LC-ESI-QTOF/MS characterisation of phenolic acids and flavonoids in polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables and their potential antioxidant activities


Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found largely in fruits and vegetables. The antioxidant properties of these polyphenols including total phenolic content (TPC), total flavonoid content (TFC), tannin content, 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl free radical (DPPH), 2,2′-azinobis-(3-ethylbenzo-thiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) scavenging abilities and ferric ion reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) were measured among sixteen (16) plant foods (mango, blueberry, strawberry, black carrot, raspberry, dark grapes, garlic, ginger, onion, cherry, plum, apple, papaya, peach, pear and apricot) by modifying, standardising and translating existing antioxidant methods using a 96-well plate reader. Eighteen targeted phenolic acids and flavonoids were characterised and quantified using high-performance liquid chromatography-photometric diode array (HPLC-PDA) and verified by modifying an existing method of liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray-ionisation triple quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-QTOF/MS). While most of these compounds were accurately detected by the HPLC-PDA at a low concentration, a few polyphenols in low concentrations could be only be characterised using the LC-ESI-QTOF/MS method. Our results showed that mango possessed the highest overall antioxidant activity, phenolic acid and flavonoid content among the selected fruits. Factor analysis (FA) and Pearson’s correlation tests showed high correlations among ABTS, DPPH, FRAP and phenolic acids, implying the comparable capabilities of scavenging the DPPH/ABTS free radicals and reducing ferric ions from the antioxidant compounds in the samples. Phenolic acids contributed significantly to the antioxidant activities, and flavonoids contributed more to tannin content based on the correlations. Overall, methods modified and standardized in this study can provide better understanding of high throughput technologies and increase the reliability of antioxidant data of different plant foods.

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