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Talanta. 2012 May 15;93:153-9. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2012.01.067. Epub 2012 Feb 7.

Molecular weight distribution of polysaccharides from edible seaweeds by high-performance size-exclusion chromatography (HPSEC).

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Metabolism and Nutrition Department, Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología de Alimentos y Nutrición (ICTAN), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), José Antonio Novais 10, Ciudad Universitaria, E28040, Madrid, Spain.


Biological properties of polysaccharides from seaweeds are related to their composition and structure. Many factors such as the kind of sugar, type of linkage or sulfate content of algal biopolymers exert an influence in the relationship between structure and function. Besides, the molecular weight (MW) also plays an important role. Thus, a simple, reliable and fast HPSEC method with refractive index detection was developed and optimized for the MW estimation of soluble algal polysaccharides. Chromatogram shape and repeatability of retention time was considerably improved when sodium nitrate was used instead of ultrapure water as mobile phase. Pullulan and dextran standards of different MW were used for method calibration and validation. Also, main polysaccharide standards from brown (alginate, fucoidan, laminaran) and red seaweeds (kappa- and iota-carrageenan) were used for quantification and method precision and accuracy. Relative standard deviation (RSD) of repeatability for retention time, peak areas and inter-day precision was below 0.7%, 2.5% and 2.6%, respectively, which indicated good repeatability and precision. Recoveries (96.3-109.8%) also showed its fairly good accuracy. Regarding linearity, main polysaccharide standards from brown or red seaweeds showed a highly satisfactory correlation coefficient (r>0.999). Moreover, a good sensitivity was shown, with corresponding limits of detection and quantitation in mg/mL of 0.05-0.21 and 0.16-0.31, respectively. The method was applied to the MW estimation of standard algal polysaccharides, as well as to the soluble polysaccharide fractions from the brown seaweed Saccharina latissima and the red Mastocarpus stellatus, respectively. Although distribution of molecular weight was broad, the good repeatability for retention time provided a good precision in MW estimation of polysaccharides. Water- and alkali-soluble fractions from S. latissima ranged from very high (>2400 kDa) to low MW compounds (<6 kDa); this high heterogeneity could be attributable to the complex polysaccharide composition of brown algae. Regarding M. stellatus, sulfated galactans followed a descending order of MW (>1400 kDa to <10 kDa), related to the different solubility of carrageenans in red seaweeds. In summary, the method developed allows for the molecular weight analysis of seaweed polysaccharides with very good precision, accuracy, linearity and sensitivity within a short time.

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