Profiling and classification of French propolis by combined multivariate data analysis of planar chromatograms and scanning direct analysis in real time mass spectra

J Chromatogr A. 2016 Sep 23;1465:197-204. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2016.08.045. Epub 2016 Aug 21.


Quality control of propolis is challenging, as it is a complex natural mixture of compounds, and thus, very difficult to analyze and standardize. Shown on the example of 30 French propolis samples, a strategy for an improved quality control was demonstrated in which high-performance thin-layer chromatography (HPTLC) fingerprints were evaluated in combination with selected mass signals obtained by desorption-based scanning mass spectrometry (MS). The French propolis sample extracts were separated by a newly developed reversed phase (RP)-HPTLC method. The fingerprints obtained by two different detection modes, i.e. after (1) derivatization and fluorescence detection (FLD) at UV 366nm and (2) scanning direct analysis in real time (DART)-MS, were analyzed by multivariate data analysis. Thus, RP-HPTLC-FLD and RP-HPTLC-DART-MS fingerprints were explored and the best classification was obtained using both methods in combination with pattern recognition techniques, such as principal component analysis. All investigated French propolis samples were divided in two types and characteristic patterns were observed. Phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, chrysin, pinobanksin, pinobanksin-3-acetate, galangin, kaempferol, tectochrysin and pinocembrin were identified as characteristic marker compounds of French propolis samples. This study expanded the research on the European poplar type of propolis and confirmed the presence of two botanically different types of propolis, known as the blue and orange types.

Keywords: DART-MS; Flavonoids; HPTLC; Multivariate data analysis; Phenolic acids; Propolis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / chemistry
  • Bees / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Reverse-Phase
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer*
  • Mass Spectrometry*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Phenols / analysis*
  • Phenols / chemistry
  • Phenols / isolation & purification
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Propolis / chemistry*
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet


  • Phenols
  • Propolis