Determination of free amino compounds in betalainic fruits and vegetables by gas chromatography with flame ionization and mass spectrometric detection

J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Jun 14;54(12):4311-8. doi: 10.1021/jf060245g.


Amino acids and amines are the precursors of betalains. Therefore, the profiles of free amino compounds in juices obtained from cactus pears [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. cv. Bianca, cv. Gialla, and cv. Rossa], pitaya fruits [Selenicereus megalanthus (K. Schumann ex Vaupel) Moran, Hylocereus polyrhizus (Weber) Britton & Rose, and Hylocereus undatus (Haworth) Britton & Rose], and in extracts from differently colored Swiss chard [Beta vulgaris L. ssp. cicla (L.) Alef. cv. Bright Lights] petioles and red and yellow beets (B. vulgaris L. ssp. vulgaris var. conditiva Alef. cv. Burpee's Golden) were investigated for the first time. Amino compounds were derivatized with propyl chloroformate. While gas chromatography (GC) with mass spectrometry was used for peak assignment, GC flame ionization detection was applied for quantification of individual compounds. Whereas proline was the major free amino compound of cactus pear and pitaya fruit juices, glutamine dominated in Swiss chard stems and beets, respectively. Interestingly, extremely high concentrations of dopamine were detected in Swiss chard stems and beets. Furthermore, the cleavage of betaxanthins caused by derivatization in alkaline reaction solutions is demonstrated for the first time. Amino acids and amines thus released might increase the actual free amino compound contents of the respective sample. To evaluate the contribution of betaxanthin cleavage to total amino acid and amine concentration, isolated betaxanthins were derivatized according to the "EZ:faast" method prior to quantification of the respective amino compounds released. On a molar basis, betaxanthin contribution to overall amino compound contents was always below 6.4%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / analysis*
  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Beta vulgaris / chemistry
  • Betalains / analysis*
  • Cactaceae / chemistry
  • Chromatography, Gas*
  • Dopamine / analysis
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Glutamine / analysis
  • Mass Spectrometry*
  • Opuntia / chemistry
  • Picolinic Acids
  • Vegetables / chemistry*


  • Amines
  • Amino Acids
  • Picolinic Acids
  • betaxanthin
  • Glutamine
  • Betalains
  • Dopamine