In the present study, we evaluated for the first time the variability of antioxidant traits of four Brassica wild species: B. incana, B. macrocarpa, B. villosa, and B. rupestris. The content of the main water-soluble antioxidants (phenolics, ascorbic acid, and total biothiols) and the in vitro antioxidant potential (1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazil (DPPH) and superoxide anion scavenging capacity) were investigated. A total of 28 polyphenolic compounds were identified by LC/MS and quantitated by HPLC/DAD analysis. Kaempferol and quercetin derivatives were the most abundant phenolics compared to hydroxycinnamoyl gentiobiosides. In the ten populations, phenolics ranged from 163.9 to 533.9 mg/100 g dry weight (d.w.), ascorbic acid from 7.6 to 375.8 mg/100 g d.w., and total biothiols from 0.59 to 5.13 mg/100 g d.w. The different classes of phytochemicals were separated using solid-phase extraction at increasing methanol concentrations, and the antioxidant power of fractionated extracts was evaluated. The superoxide anion scavenging activity was significantly correlated to phenolics, particularly to flavonol derivatives, while DPPH was mainly related to ascorbic acid content. The present findings improve the knowledge of the phytochemical composition of Italian Brassica wild species by showing the great diversity of phytochemicals among populations and highlighting their importance as a valuable genetic resource for developing new cultivars with improved bioactive content.
Keywords: Brassica wild relatives; DPPH; LC-UV-PDA-ESI-MS; polyphenols; scavenging activity.