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J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Oct 17;55(21):8534-40. Epub 2007 Sep 21.

Identification and occurrence of beta-carboline alkaloids in raisins and inhibition of monoamine oxidase (MAO).

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  • 1Spanish Council for Scientific Research, CSIC, Instituto de Fermentaciones Industriales, Juan de la Cierva 3, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is a mitochondrial enzyme involved in the oxidative catabolism of neurotransmitters and xenobiotic amines, including vasopressor and neurotoxic amines, and a current target for antidepressant and neuroprotective drugs. Raisin extracts and homogenates exhibited reversible in vitro inhibition of MAO isozymes, particularly MAO-A, suggesting the presence of MAO-inhibiting substances. Chromatographic and spectrometric studies showed the occurrence of aromatic beta-carboline alkaloids in raisins, and norharman and harman were identified as the key contributors to MAO inhibition. On average, harman ranged from 6 to 644 ng/g and norharman from 2 to 120 ng/g. Several technological variables appeared to determine the presence of these compounds in raisins. Dark-brown raisins (i.e., sun-dried) contained much higher levels than golden raisins. Tetrahydro-beta-carboline-3-carboxylic acid compounds that are direct precursors of aromatic beta-carbolines were also identified in raisins and appeared in a higher amount, reaching up to 50 microg/g. beta-Carbolines were isolated from raisins and acted as good competitive inhibitors of MAO-A (harman) and MAO-B (norharman) isozymes. These results suggest that beta-carboline alkaloids and perhaps raisins containing a high level of beta-carbolines might exhibit potential activity as MAO inhibitors. The results also show that some raisins can be a source of dietary exposure to bioactive beta-carbolines.

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