, Volume 401, Issue 5, pp 1559-1569
Date: 15 May 2011

Characterization of oxidized tannins: comparison of depolymerization methods, asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation and small-angle X-ray scattering

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Condensed tannins are a major class of plant polyphenols. They play an important part in the colour and taste of foods and beverages. Due to their chemical reactivity, tannins are not stable once extracted from plants. A number of chemical reactions can take place, leading to structural changes of the native structures to give so-called derived tannins and pigments. This paper compares results obtained on native and oxidized tannins with different techniques: depolymerization followed by high-performance liquid chromatography analysis, small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation (AF4). Upon oxidation, new macromolecules were formed. Thioglycolysis experiments showed no evidence of molecular weight increase, but thioglycolysis yields drastically decreased. When oxidation was performed at high concentration (e.g., 10 g L−1), the weight average degree of polymerization determined from SAXS increased, whereas it remained stable when oxidation was done at low concentration (0.1 g L−1), indicating that the reaction was intramolecular, yet the conformations were different. Differences in terms of solubility were observed; ethanol being a better solvent than water. We also separated soluble and non-water-soluble species of a much oxidized fraction. Thioglycolysis showed no big differences between the two fractions, whereas SAXS and AF4 showed that insoluble macromolecules have a weight average molecular weight ten times higher than the soluble ones.


Comparison of UV and MALLS fractograms obtained with water-soluble and -insoluble fractions of oxidized tannins in EtOH. Water-insoluble fractions exhibit a broader size distribution and has a weight average molecular weight about ten times larger than the -soluble one