The methyl ester distribution of pectins was studied with a recently developed enzymatic method. Endopolygalacturonase of Kluyveromyces fragilis was used to degrade pectin and the composition of the degradation products was determined with high-performance anion-exchange chromatography at pH 5. Three characteristics indicative for the distribution of nonesterified galacturonic acid residues were obtained: the percentage of nonesterified galacturonic acid residues liberated of the total number of nonesterified galacturonic acid in the undigested polymer, the proportion of nonesterified mono-, di-, and trigalacturonic acid released, and the ratio of the sum of the peak areas of methyl ester containing oligomers divided by the sum of the peak areas of the nonesterified oligomers detected. From these characteristics and the degree of methyl esterification, the mean sequence similarity of the methyl ester distributions was calculated. Computational techniques commonly employed in the determination of the sequence similarity of DNA and proteins were used to discriminate the various types of distributions found and to construct a distance tree. In general, three types of methyl ester distributions could be discerned in pectin: random, high, and blockwise esterified. This report is the first to describe a parametric approach for the comparison of the substituent distribution in polymers. The importance of this novel approach in the study of the methyl ester distribution and the functional properties of pectin is discussed.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.