Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 65, Issue 6, pp 1699–1709 | Cite as

Secondary metabolites content may clarify the traditional selection process of the greater yam cultivars (Dioscorea alata L.)

  • V. Lebot
  • R. Malapa
  • K. Abraham
  • T. Molisalé
  • N. Van Kien
  • B. Gueye
  • J. Waki
Research Article


Dioscorea alata L. is one of the most widely grown and economically important yam species. Hundreds of accessions are maintained ex situ in germplasm collections and have been characterized with descriptors but new tools are still needed to assess tuber chemical composition. The objectives of the present study were to analyze saponins and catechins profiles in 388 D. alata cultivars (landraces) from distant geographical sources (Nigeria, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu) and to compare them with those of 162 selected hybrids. The relationships between these compounds and tuber flesh oxidation and browning were also studied in order to understand their possible role in the ancient cultivars selection process. Dioscin and gracillin, the most documented Dioscorea saponins, were absent among the 550 D. alata cultivars and hybrids analyzed using HP-TLC. Two saponins and four catechins were quantitated, including epicatechin. Mean total catechins and saponins values were very low for most cultivars and higher mean values were found in hybrids. Correlation coefficients revealed possible relationships between total saponins and catechins contents with speed of oxidation, presence of mucilage and flour colour. Distribution of cultivars values within each country indicate that these were mostly selected for their low saponins and catechins contents through simple visual assessment. Metabolite profiles can be used to improve the phenotyping efficiency of D. alata hybrids generated through conventional breeding.


Anti-nutritional compounds Catechins Dioscorea alata Domestication Saponins Tuber quality 



This work was financially supported by the ‘Agropolis Fondation’ under reference ID 1403-023 through the ‘Investissements d’avenir’ programme (Labex Agro: ANR-10-LABX-0001-01). Special thanks are due to Rosanna Molisalé and Madeleine Shem for assistance in preparing samples and methanolic extracts.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10722_2018_647_MOESM1_ESM.docx (58 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Lebot
    • 1
  • R. Malapa
    • 2
  • K. Abraham
    • 3
  • T. Molisalé
    • 2
  • N. Van Kien
    • 4
  • B. Gueye
    • 5
  • J. Waki
    • 6
  1. 1.CIRAD, UMR AGAPPort-VilaVanuatu
  2. 2.VARTCLuganvilleVanuatu
  3. 3.ICAR-CTCRIThiruvananthapuramIndia
  4. 4.PRC, An Khanh, Hoai DucHanoiVietnam
  5. 5.IITAIbadanNigeria
  6. 6.NARILaePapua New Guinea

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