Horticulture, Environment, and Biotechnology

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 557–566 | Cite as

Profiling cucurbitacins from diverse watermelons (Citrullus spp.)

  • Young-Cheon Kim
  • Daeun Choi
  • Chunying Zhang
  • Hai-feng Liu
  • Sanghyeob LeeEmail author
Research Report Genetics and Breeding


Cucurbitacins are a group of tetracyclic triterpenes produced by members of the Cucurbitaceae family that are known for their bitter taste, and have both positive and negative attributes based on their use. The aim of the present study was to profile cucurbitacins through the quantitative analysis of diverse watermelon (Citrullus spp.) germplasms, including Citrullus colocynthis and Citrullus lanatus, using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC–MS) and high performance liquid chromatography. We isolated cucurbitacins B and E, and cucurbitacin E glycoside and evaluated the concentration of these compounds in watermelon leaves, fruits, and seedling extracts. High amounts of cucurbitacin E glycosides were found in most of the C. colocynthis leaves at concentrations between 1.3 and 0.9 mg/g of fresh weight, while relatively low concentrations of cucurbitacin B and E were detectable in these tissues. Interestingly, cucurbitacin E glycosides were only detected in most C. colocynthis fruits at concentrations between 0.21 and 3.2 mg/g fresh weight. We also confirmed the correlation between bitter taste and cucurbitacin E glycoside content. Cucurbitacin B and E and cucurbitacin E glycoside were found in most of the cultivars tested, while cucurbitacin agylcones were the primary cucurbitacins identified in seedlings. This study reveals the cucurbitacin composition in various watermelon germplasms and in different plant tissue.


Cucurbitacin E (CuE) Cucurbitacin B (CuB) Cucurbitacin E-2-O-glucoside (CuE-Glu) Bitterness Watermelon (Citrullus spp.) 



The authors are grateful to Dr. Joung-Hwan Lee for helpful discussion and for critical reading of the manuscript. This work was supported under the framework of an international cooperation program (NRF-2015K2A2A2001928) and basic science research program (NRF 2017R1D1A1A02018460) funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea and the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC-31511140284) for S LEE and HF LIU, respectively.

Supplementary material

13580_2018_66_MOESM1_ESM.docx (238 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 238 kb)


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Copyright information

© Korean Society for Horticultural Science and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Young-Cheon Kim
    • 1
  • Daeun Choi
    • 1
  • Chunying Zhang
    • 1
  • Hai-feng Liu
    • 2
  • Sanghyeob Lee
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Bioresources Engineering and Plant Engineering Research InstituteSejong UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of Agronomy, College of AgricultureYanbian UniversityYanjiChina

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