Selective Chlorophyll Removal Method to "Degreen" Botanical Extracts

J Nat Prod. 2020 Jun 26;83(6):1846-1858. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.0c00005. Epub 2020 May 19.


Chlorophylls are present in all extracts from the aerial parts of green plant materials. Chlorophylls may act as in vitro bioassay nuisance compounds, possibly preventing the reproducibility and accurate measurement of readouts due to their UV/vis absorbance, fluorescence properties, and tendency to precipitate in aqueous media. Despite the diversity of methods used traditionally to remove chlorophylls, details about their mode of operation, specificity, and reproducibility are scarce. Herein, we report a selective and efficient 45 min liquid-liquid/countercurrent chlorophyll cleanup method using Centrifugal Partition Chromatography (CPC) with a solvent system composed of hexanes-EtOAc-MeOH-water (5:5:5:5, v/v) in elution-extrusion mode. The broader utility of the method was assessed with four different extracts prepared from three well-characterized plant materials: Epimedium sagittatum (leaves), Senna alexandrina (leaves), and Trifolium pratense (aerial parts). The reproducibility of the method, the selectivity of the chlorophyll removal, as well as the preservation of the phytochemical integrity of the resulting chlorophyll-free ("degreened") extracts were evaluated using HPTLC, UHPLC-UV, 1H NMR spectroscopy, and LC-MS as orthogonal phytochemical methods. The cleanup process adequately preserves the metabolomic diversity as well as the integrity of the original extracts. This method was found to be sufficiently rapid for the "degreening" of botanical extracts in higher-throughput sample preparation for further biological screening.