, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 165–179 | Cite as

Characterization of bioactive plant ellagitannins by chromatographic, spectroscopic and mass spectrometric methods

  • Johanna Moilanen
  • Jari Sinkkonen
  • Juha-Pekka Salminen
Research Paper


Ellagitannins are widely distributed plant polyphenols showing potent anti-herbivore activities, but rather complex chemical structures. Here we show how ellagitannins with different structures can be efficiently characterized from plant extracts by utilizing the information obtained from four universal methods used for ellagitannin analysis: Sephadex LH-20 gel chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography, ultraviolet spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry. We show that by combining the information obtained from the ellagitannins’ chromatographic elution order, specific shapes of the ultraviolet spectra, molecular masses and characteristic mass spectral fragmentations, it is possible to classify these polyphenols into different ellagitannin sub-groups, and even characterize the structures within the sub-groups. These findings aid in the fast screening of complex plant samples for their ellagitannin composition without having to isolate compounds for individual characterization.


Polyphenol Hydrolyzable tannin Structure elucidation 



The authors thank Maarit Karonen, Jaana Liimatainen, Matti Vihakas and Anu Tuo-minen for their comments on the earlier versions of the manuscript. Chris Yarnes and Kati Tuominen are acknowledged for their help with the purification of Quercus gambelii ellagitannins. This work was supported by the Academy of Finland (Grant No 119659 and 258992 to JPS) and the Kone Foundation (JM).

Supplementary material

49_2013_132_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (588 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 589 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johanna Moilanen
    • 1
  • Jari Sinkkonen
    • 1
  • Juha-Pekka Salminen
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Department of ChemistryUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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