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Free Radic Res. 2015 May;49(5):650-80. doi: 10.3109/10715762.2015.1022539. Epub 2015 Apr 13.

Analytical tools for the analysis of β-carotene and its degradation products.

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Division of Chemistry and Bioanalytics, Department of Molecular Biology, University of Salzburg , Salzburg , Austria.


β-Carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, possesses pronounced radical scavenging properties. This has centered the attention on β-carotene dietary supplementation in healthcare as well as in the therapy of degenerative disorders and several cancer types. However, two intervention trials with β-carotene have revealed adverse effects on two proband groups, that is, cigarette smokers and asbestos-exposed workers. Beside other causative reasons, the detrimental effects observed have been related to the oxidation products of β-carotene. Their generation originates in the polyene structure of β-carotene that is beneficial for radical scavenging, but is also prone to oxidation. Depending on the dominant degradation mechanism, bond cleavage might occur either randomly or at defined positions of the conjugated electron system, resulting in a diversity of cleavage products (CPs). Due to their instability and hydrophobicity, the handling of standards and real samples containing β-carotene and related CPs requires preventive measures during specimen preparation, analyte extraction, and final analysis, to avoid artificial degradation and to preserve the initial analyte portfolio. This review critically discusses different preparation strategies of standards and treatment solutions, and also addresses their protection from oxidation. Additionally, in vitro oxidation strategies for the generation of oxidative model compounds are surveyed. Extraction methods are discussed for volatile and non-volatile CPs individually. Gas chromatography (GC), (ultra)high performance liquid chromatography (U)HPLC, and capillary electrochromatography (CEC) are reviewed as analytical tools for final analyte analysis. For identity confirmation of analytes, mass spectrometry (MS) is indispensable, and the appropriate ionization principles are comprehensively discussed. The final sections cover analysis of real samples and aspects of quality assurance, namely matrix effects and method validation.


cleavage products; extraction and analysis methods; in vitro oxidation methods; quantification and validation; β-Carotene

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