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Tomato fruit flavonoid profiles and in vitro antioxidant activities of accessions from a germplasm collection

There is increasing interest in the ability of diets rich in flavonoids to modulate age-related diseases and promote healthy ageing. Thus, there is a growing interest in the production of flood plants with increasing amounts of flavonoids and consequently enhancement of flavonoid biosynthesis in chosen crops, such as tomatoes, is likely to increase human consumption of these compounds that have the potential to benefit human health.

A large germplasm collection of tomato lines deposited in the germplasm collection at the Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Pant Research, Gatersleben, has been screened for the profiles of flavonoids in the fruits. Tomato accessions have been grown in the field for initial screening, and a second round of flavonoid profiling was performed for selected lines grown under greenhouse conditions. Profiles of flavonoids and other soluble phenylpropanoids were obtained after HPLC separation of methanolic fruit extracts by diode array detection. HPLC analysis of tomato fruits revealed a large variability in the contents of flavonoids and other phenolic compounds. Accessions with overall low accumulation of phenolic compounds as well as with overall high contents of many compounds were observed. Assessment of the overall antioxidant capacity in vitro revealed a correlation with the accumulation of the flavonoid rutin, a major phenolic compound of tomato fruits. Therefore, with respect to the potential health benefits of a diet with high flavonoid intake, selected tomato accessions form the germplasm collections constitute a valuable resource for future breeding efforts to enhance the fruit flavonoid contents.

Human studies have shown that increased intake of flavonoids lead to an increased accumulation of flavonoids and their metabolites in the circulation. However, this is unlikely to mean that the plasma antioxidant status is altered significantly even if greater amounts of rutin and its derivative metabolites are present in the circulation. Indeed, flavonoids are unlikely to express beneficial action in vivo through out-competing antioxidants, such as ascorbate, which are present at much higher concentrations. More likely is the possibility that flavonol metabolites derived from increased rutin intake may act favourably by exerting effects on specific signalling pathways through selective actions at different components of a number of protein kinase and lipid kinase sihgnalling cascades.

These findings have been published (Free Radical Research September 2005).

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