Changes in Apparent Molecular Mass of Pectin and Hemicellulose Extracts during Peach Softening

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078

Pectin and hemicellulose were solubilized from cell walls of peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] fruit differing in firmness by extraction with imidazole and sodium carbonate (pectin extracts), followed by a graded series of potassium hydroxide (hemicellulose extracts). The extracts were subjected to size exclusion chromatography. In imidazole extracts, as fruit softened, there was an increase in proportion of a large apparent molecular mass peak, with a galacturonosyl to rhamnosyl residue ratio resembling a rhamnogalacturonan-like polymer. A smaller apparent molecular mass peak was enriched in galacturonic acid and probably represented a broad polydisperse peak derived from more homogalacturonan-like polymers. In sodium carbonate extracts, a homogalacturonan-like polymer appeared to elute primarily as a higher apparent molecular mass constituent, which increased in quantity relative to other constituents as fruit softened. In cold 1 mol·L-1 KOH extracts three peaks predominated. A xyloglucan-like polymer appeared to elute predominantly in the second peak and fucose was strongly associated with it. In 4 mol·L-1 KOH extracts (tightly bound hemicellulose) the higher apparent molecular mass peak was predominantly acidic and presumably of pectic origin. The smaller apparent molecular mass peaks were composed primarily of neutral sugars, the second peak became smaller and the third peak larger as fruit softened. The ability to separate pectin and xyloglucan-like polymer as two separate fractions based on charge suggests that the nature of any pectin-hemicellulose interaction in this fraction is probably one of physical entrapment of pectin fractions by hemicellulose and not principally by covalent crosslinking between the two polysaccharide classes in peach. Flesh firmness serves as an important determinant of quality in peaches. Our results indicate that apparent molecular mass of both pectins and hemicelluloses changed as peaches softened, resulting in alteration of cell wall structure and associated with decreased tissue cohesion.

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