, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 171-178

Pollen sporopollenin: degradation and structural elucidation

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We report the isolation of purified sporopollenin from pollen grains of different species and its complete solubilization. Exine from Pinus pinaster, Betula alba, Ambrosia elatior and Capsicum annuum was extracted by treatment with hydrogen fluoride in pyridine. These exines were purified from their aromatic moieties and from fatty acids linked by ester bonds using acidolysis and saponification treatments. The biopolymer obtained retains almost completely the shape of the original pollen grain. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy analysis of the isolated sporopollenin showed the absence of polysaccharide and phenolic material and the presence of carboxylic acid groups joined to unsaturations and ether linkages. Sporopollenin samples were successfully degraded by exhaustive 24-h ozonolysis at room temperature. Gentle ozonolysis (3 h at 0°C) did not completely degrade the biopolymer. The compounds obtained after exhaustive ozonolysis were analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Dicarboxylic acids with a low number of carbon atoms were identified as major components of sporopollenin from P. pinaster, A. elatior and C. annuum, representing 28.8%, 63.2% and 88.5%, respectively, of the total compounds obtained. Fatty acids and n-alkanes also were identified in P. pinaster, A. elatior and B. alba sporopollenin. From the data obtained, an hypothesis about the chemical nature and structural arrangement of the sporopollenin is proposed.

Received: 8 November 1998 / Revision accepted: 14 April 1999