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Comparison of the free and bound phenolic profiles and cellular antioxidant activities of litchi pulp extracts from different solvents

Dongxiao Su12, Ruifen Zhang2, Fangli Hou3, Mingwei Zhang2*, Jinxin Guo2, Fei Huang12, Yuanyuan Deng2 and Zhencheng Wei2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Food Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, P.R. China

2 Sericultural and Agri-food Research Institute, Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Guangzhou 510610, P.R. China

3 College of Food Science, Guangdong Pharmaceutical University, Zhongshan 528458, P.R. China

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-9

Published: 9 January 2014



The phenolic contents and antioxidant activities of fruits could be underestimated if the bound phenolic compounds are not considered. In the present study, the extraction efficiencies of various solvents were investigated in terms of the total content of the free and bound phenolic compounds, as well as the phenolic profiles and antioxidant activities of the extracts.


Five different solvent mixtures were used to extract the free phenolic compounds from litchi pulp. Alkaline and acidic hydrolysis methods were compared for the hydrolysis of bound phenolic compounds from litchi pulp residue. The phenolic compositions of the free and bound fractions from the litchi pulp were identified using HPLC-DAD. The antioxidant activities of the litchi pulp extracts were determined by oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) and cellular antioxidant activity (CAA) assays.


Of the solvents tested, aqueous acetone extracted the largest amount of total free phenolic compounds (210.7 mg GAE/100 g FW) from litchi pulp, followed sequentially by aqueous mixtures of methanol, ethanol and ethyl acetate, and water itself. The acid hydrolysis method released twice as many bound phenolic compounds as the alkaline hydrolysis method. Nine phenolic compounds were detected in the aqueous acetone extract. In contrast, not all of these compounds were found in the other four extracts. The classification and content of the bound phenolic compounds released by the acid hydrolysis method were higher than those achieved by the alkaline hydrolysis. The aqueous acetone extract showing the highest ORAC value (3406.9 μmol TE/100 g FW) for the free phenolic extracts. For the CAA method, however, the aqueous acetone and methanol extracts (56.7 and 55.1 μmol QE/100 g FW) showed the highest levels of activity of the five extracts tested. The ORAC and CAA values of the bound phenolic compounds obtained by acid hydrolysis were 2.6- and 1.9-fold higher than those obtained using the alkaline hydrolysis method.


The free and bound phenolic contents and profiles and antioxidant activities of the extracts were found to be dependent on the extraction solvent used. Litchi exhibited good cellular antioxidant activity and could be a potentially useful natural source of antioxidants.