Chlorophyll breakdown in spinach: on the structure of five nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites*
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In extracts of senescent leaves of spinach (Spinacia oleracea), five colourless compounds with UV/Vis-characteristics of nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites (NCCs) were detected and tentatively named So-NCCs. The most abundant polar NCC in the leaves of this vegetable, So-NCC-2, had been isolated earlier and its constitution was determined by spectroscopic means. The catabolite So-NCC-2 was found to be an epimer of a polar NCC from barley (Hordeum vulgare), the first non-green chlorophyll catabolite from a higher plant to be structurally analyzed. Here, we report on the isolation of four additional So-NCCs from the extracts of senescent leaves of Sp. oleracea by two- (or multi-)stage chromatographic purification and on their structural characterization. The constitution of So-NCC-3 could be determined by spectroscopic analysis in combination with chemical correlation with a known NCC from Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Cj-NCC): So-NCC-3 was identified as the hydrolysis product of the methyl ester function of Cj-NCC. The less polar catabolite So-NCC-4 could be directly identified with Cj-NCC. Two further So-NCCs, So-NCC-1 and So-NCC-5, were detected only in trace amounts. Five structurally related nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites (So-NCCs) are thus present in senescent leaves of spinach. The structures of this set of So-NCCs indicate several peripheral refunctionalization reactions and inform on the late catabolic transformations during leaf senescence. The transformation of the tetrapyrrolic skeleton in chlorophyll catabolism in spinach and in C. japonicum is revealed to exhibit a common stereochemical pattern.
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