The primary, secondary, and structures of higher levels of pectin polysaccharides

Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2021 Jan;20(1):1101-1117. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12689. Epub 2020 Dec 16.


Pectin is a heteropolysaccharide abundant in the cell wall of plants and is obtained mainly from fruit (citrus and apple), thus its properties are particularly prone to changes occurring during ripening process. Properties of pectin depend on the string-like structure (conformation, stiffness) of the molecules that determines their mutual interaction and with the surrounding environment. Therefore, in this review the primary, secondary, and structures of higher levels of pectin chains are discussed in relation to external factors including crosslinking mechanisms. The review shows that the primary structure of pectin is relatively well known, however, we still know little about the conformation and properties of the more realistic systems of higher orders involving side chains, functional groups, and complexes of pectin domains. In particular, there is lack of knowledge on the influence of postharvest changes and extraction method on the primary and secondary structure of pectin that would affect conformation in a given environment and assembly to higher structural levels. Exploring the above-mentioned issues will allow to improve our understanding of pectin functionality and will help to tailor new functionalities for the food industry based on natural but often biologically variable source. The review also demonstrates that atomic force microscopy is a very convenient and adequate tool for the evaluation of pectin conformation since it allows for the relatively straightforward stretching of the pectin molecule in order to measure the force-extension curve which is directly related to its stiffness or flexibility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Citrus*
  • Fruit
  • Malus*
  • Pectins
  • Polysaccharides


  • Polysaccharides
  • Pectins