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J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Jul 26;54(15):5482-8.

Floral Trifolium proanthocyanidins: polyphenol formation and compositional diversity.

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Food and Health and Forage Improvement, AgResearch Ltd., Grasslands Research Centre, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Recent studies on the biosynthesis of proanthocyandins have identified key genes and enzymes in the formation of 2,3-cis-flavan-3-ols (epiafzelechin, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin). However, the enzymes that catalyze the polymerization of monomer units remain unknown. Studies of proanthocyanidin synthesis have involved the reference plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, forage legumes, tobacco, and grape. For this paper the floral proanthocyanidins of 10 Trifolium species were studied to identify candidates with contrasting proanthocyanidin chemistry, for the identification of factors involved in polymerization. Proanthocyandins were present in the floral portions (3.1-12.2 g/100 g of dry matter) of Trifolium spp. Thiolyic cleavage of proanthocyanidin fractions liberated flavan-3-ol extension units dominated by cis stereochemistry. The terminal units' stereochemistry of T. michelianum was exclusively trans (catechin), that of T. hirtum mixed trans (catechin and gallocatechin), and that of T. vesiculosum equal proportions of trans and cis (catechin and epicatechin). Compositional dispersion for oligomers was determined by MALDI-TOF MS, which showed a range of ions up to approximately 2200 Da. The three Trifolium spp. highlighted, all annuals, may warrant investigation for insights into proanthocyanidins biosynthesis.

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