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Defensive strategies in Geranium sylvaticum, Part 2: Roles of water-soluble tannins, flavonoids and phenolic acids against natural enemies

Tuominen, Anu
Phytochemistry 2013 v.95 pp. 408-420
2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl, Geranium, antioxidant activity, antioxidants, chromatography, flavonoids, herbaceous plants, herbivores, insects, leaves, multivariate analysis, natural enemies, pathogens, pistil, proanthocyanidins, roots, soil, tannins, Scandinavia
Geranium sylvaticum is a common herbaceous plant in Fennoscandia, which has a unique phenolic composition. Ellagitannins, proanthocyanidins, galloylglucoses, gallotannins, galloyl quinic acids and flavonoids possess variable distribution in its different organs. These phenolic compounds are thought to have an important role in plant–herbivore interactions.The aim of this study was to quantify these different water-soluble phenolic compounds and measure the biological activity of the eight organs of G. sylvaticum. Compounds were characterized and quantified using HPLC-DAD/MS, in addition, total proanthocyanidins were determined by BuOH–HCl assay and total phenolics by the Folin–Ciocalteau method. Two in vitro biological activity measurements were used: the prooxidant activity was measured by the browning assay and antioxidant activity by the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging assay. Organ extracts were fractionated using column chromatography on Sephadex LH-20 and the activities of fractions was similarly measured to evaluate which polyphenol groups contributed the most to the biological activity of each organ. The data on the activity of fractions were examined by multivariate data analysis.The water-soluble extracts of leaves and pistils, which contained over 30% of the dry weight as ellagitannins, showed the highest pro-oxidant activity among the organ extracts. Fraction analysis revealed that flavonoids and galloyl quinic acids also exhibited high pro-oxidant activity. In contrast, the most antioxidant active organ extracts were those of the main roots and hairy roots that contained high amounts of proanthocyanidins in addition to ellagitannins. Analysis of the fractions showed that especially ellagitannins and galloyl quinic acids have high antioxidant activity. We conclude that G. sylvaticum allocates a significant amount of tannins in those plant parts that are important to the fitness of the plant and susceptible to natural enemies, i.e. pistil and leaf tannins protect against insect herbivores and root tannins against soil pathogens.