Phlorotannins are bioactive polyphenols in brown macroalgae that make these algae interesting as healthy food. Specific phlorotannins are, however, seldom identified, and extracts from different species are often only analysed for total phenolic content (TPC). In this study, our focus was to identify phlorotannin molecules from Saccharina latissima and Ascophyllum nodosum (a species rich in these compounds) using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS2). Water and ethanol (30 and 80% v/v) were used at solid:liquid ratios, extraction times and temperatures, proposed to result in high TPC in extracts from other species. The S. latissima extracts, however, did not allow phlorotannin detection by either UHPLC-UV/Vis or UHPLC-HRMS2, despite a TPC response by the Folin-Ciocalteu assay, pinpointing a problem with interference by non-phenolic compounds. Purification by solid phase extraction (SPE) led to purer, more concentrated fractions and identification of four phlorotannin species in A. nodosum and one in S. latissima by UHPLC-HRMS2, using extracts in ethanol 80% v/v at a solid:liquid ratio of 1:10 for 20 h at 25 °C with an added 10 h at 65 °C incubation of remaining solids. The phlorotannin with the formula C12H10O7 (corresponding to bifuhalol) is the first identified in S. latissima.
Keywords: Ascophyllum nodosum; Saccharina latissima; brown algae; extraction; high-resolution mass spectrometry; phlorotannins; polyphenols.