Food chemistry

Tackling the challenge of selective analytical clean-up of complex natural extracts: the curious case of chlorophyll removal.

PMID 24912710


Alkaline saponification is often used to remove interfering chlorophylls and lipids during carotenoids analysis. However, saponification also hydrolyses esterified carotenoids and is known to induce artifacts. To avoid carotenoid artifact formation during saponification, Larsen and Christensen (2005) developed a gentler and simpler analytical clean-up procedure involving the use of a strong basic resin (Ambersep 900 OH). They hypothesised a saponification mechanism based on their Liquid Chromatography-Photodiode Array (LC-PDA) data. In the present study, we show with LC-PDA-accurate mass-Mass Spectrometry that the main chlorophyll removal mechanism is not based on saponification, apolar adsorption or anion exchange, but most probably an adsorption mechanism caused by H-bonds and dipole-dipole interactions. We showed experimentally that esterified carotenoids and glycerolipids were not removed, indicating a much more selective mechanism than initially hypothesised. This opens new research opportunities towards a much wider scope of applications (e.g. the refinement of oils rich in phytochemical content).