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Degradation of cocoa proteins into oligopeptides during spontaneous fermentation of cocoa beans

D'Souza, Roy N., Grimbs, Anne, Grimbs, Sergio, Behrends, Britta, Corno, Marcello, Ullrich, Matthias S., Kuhnert, Nikolai
Food research international 2018 v.109 pp. 506-516
albumins, chocolate, cocoa beans, fermentation, flavor, odors, oligopeptides, peptidases, protein degradation, proteolysis, storage proteins, tandem mass spectrometry, time series analysis, vicilin, Cote d'Ivoire
Degradation products of proteins produced during fermentation are believed to be the key precursors of a range of Maillard reactions that deliver the characteristic flavor and aroma of cocoa and chocolate. We have utilized UPLC-ESI-Q-q-TOF to identify and relatively quantify the largest collection of cocoa oligopeptides during a spontaneous fermentation time series using Ivory Coast cocoa beans. Peptides were identified, sequenced by tandem mass spectrometry and annotated based on their characteristic fragmentation pattern in the positive-ion mode. This enabled us to quantitatively trace the sequential degradation of the two main cocoa storage proteins, namely, albumin and vicilin. We observed sequential proteolytic degradation forming longer peptides in the early stages of fermentation and an increasing number of shorter peptides at the latter stages of fermentation. Protein degradation is mediated by both endo- and exopeptidases degrading at either peptide termini. In excess of 800 fermentation peptides could be unambiguously identified, providing unprecedented mechanistic details of cocoa fermentation.