Background and Aims Pectin is a complex macromolecule, the fine structure of which is influenced by many factors. It is used as a gelling, thickening and emulsifying agent in a wide range of applications, from food to pharmaceutical products. Current industrial pectin extraction processes are based on fruit peel, a waste product from the juicing industry, in which thousands of tons of citrus are processed worldwide every year. This study examines how pectin components vary in relation to the plant source (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit) and considers the influence of extraction conditions on the chemical and macromolecular characteristics of pectin samples. Methods Citrus peel (orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit) from a commercial supplier was used as raw material. Pectin samples were obtained on a bulk plant scale (kilograms; harsh nitric acid, mild nitric acid and harsh oxalic acid extraction) and on a laboratory scale (grams; mild oxalic acid extraction). Pectin composition (acidic and neutral sugars) and physicochemical properties (molar mass and intrinsic viscosity) were determined. Key Results Oxalic acid extraction allowed the recovery of pectin samples of high molecular weight. Mild oxalic acid-extracted pectins were rich in long homogalacturonan stretches and contained rhamnogalacturonan I stretches with conserved side chains. Nitric acid-extracted pectins exhibited lower molecular weights and contained rhamnogalacturonan I stretches encompassing few and/or short side chains. Grapefruit pectin was found to have short side chains compared with orange, lime and lemon. Orange and grapefruit pectin samples were both particularly rich in rhamnogalacturonan I backbones. Conclusions Structural, and hence macromolecular, variations within the different citrus pectin samples were mainly related to their rhamnogalacturonan I contents and integrity, and, to a lesser extent, to the length of their homogalacturonan domains.
Annals of Botany, 2014, Vol 114, Issue 6, p. 1319-1326