Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of kernel anthocyanins from southwestern United States blue corn

J Sci Food Agric. 2016 Oct;96(13):4542-52. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.7671. Epub 2016 Mar 24.


Background: Anthocyanin-rich blue corn is an emerging specialty crop in the USA. The antioxidant properties of blue corn offer health benefits in the human diet. The objectives of this study were to identify, characterize and quantify the anthocyanins from blue corn. Hypotheses tested were that total anthocyanin content was similar among southwestern US accessions and that it would vary across locations. It was also examined whether different anthocyanin components were unique to certain genotypes.

Results: Across all locations and accessions, an average of 0.43 g kg(-1) total anthocyanin content (TAC) was observed. Accessions Santa Clara Blue and Ohio Blue displayed the highest TAC. The TAC of accession Flor del Rio was lower by nearly a factor of six. A total of five anthocyanin components were identified. Cyanidin 3-glucoside was the most abundant, followed by pelargonidin and peonidin 3-glucoside. Succinyl and disuccinyl glycosidic forms of cyanidin were also identified. Cyanidin 3-disuccinylglucoside was newly identified as a novel form of anthocyanin.

Conclusion: Quantitative and qualitative anthocyanin expression was determined to be relatively stable across multiple southwestern environments. Increased expression of red and purple pigmentation in accession Flor del Rio appeared to be associated more with reduced TAC and cyanidin 3-glucoside than with elevated pelargonidin per se. A previously unreported anthocyanin component in blue corn, cyanidin 3-disuccinylglucoside, is present in southwestern landraces. © 2016 Society of Chemical Industry.

Keywords: anthocyanins; blue corn; chemical diversity; landraces; specialty corn.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Anthocyanins / analysis*
  • Anthocyanins / biosynthesis
  • Anthocyanins / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Crop Production
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry*
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism
  • Food Quality*
  • Functional Food / analysis*
  • Glucosides / analysis
  • Glucosides / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Pigments, Biological / biosynthesis*
  • Plant Breeding
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Seeds / chemistry*
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Southwestern United States
  • Species Specificity
  • Succinates / analysis
  • Succinates / metabolism
  • Zea mays / chemistry*
  • Zea mays / growth & development
  • Zea mays / metabolism


  • Anthocyanins
  • Antioxidants
  • Glucosides
  • Pigments, Biological
  • Succinates
  • cyanidin-3-O-beta-glucopyranoside
  • peonidin 3-glucoside
  • pelargonidin
  • cyanidin