Carbohydrate research

Determination of the degree of acetylation and the distribution of acetyl groups in chitosan by HPLC analysis of nitrous acid degraded and PMP labeled products.

PMID 26114886


Chitin is one of the most abundant polysaccharides on earth. It consists of repeating β-1,4 linked N-acetylated glucosamine (A) units. Chitosan is an N-deacetylated product of chitin. Chitosan and its derivatives have broad medical applications as drugs, nutraceuticals, or drug delivery agents. However, a reliable analytical method for quality control of medically used chitosans is still lacking. In current study, nitrous acid was used to cleave all glucosamine residues in chitosan into 2,5-anhydromannose (M) or M at the reducing end of di-, tri-, and oligosaccharides. PMP, i.e. 1-phenyl-3-methyl-5-pyrazolone, was used to label all the Ms. Online UV detection allowed quantification of all M-containing UV peaks whereas online MS analysis directly identified 11 different kinds of mono-, di-, tri-, and oligosaccharides that correlated each oligosaccharide with specific UV peak after HPLC separation. The DA (degree of acetylation) for chitosans was calculated based on the A/(A+M) value derived from the UV data. This newly developed method had several advantages for quality control of chitosan: 1. the experimental procedures were extensively optimized; 2. the reliability of the method was confirmed by online LC-MS analysis; 3. the DA value was obtainable based on the UV data after HPLC analysis, which was comparableto that of (1)H NMR and conductometric titration analyses; 4. finally and most importantly, this method could be used to obtain the DA as well as chemical acetylation/deacetylation mechanisms for chitosan by any laboratory equipped with a HPLC and an online UV detector.