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Special carbohydrates of avocado : their function as 'sources of energy' and 'anti-oxidants'.

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There is increasing interest in special heptose carbohydrates, their multifunctional roles from a plant physiological view point in fruit growth and development as well as in the whole plant in general due to their potential in mitigating photo-oxidative injury to the whole plant system and the image of avocado as ‘health fruit’. Studies have been carried out to investigate the role of avocado heptoses, rare carbohydrates predominantly produced in avocado. Several authors have documented various research findings and speculated on multifunctional roles of avocado special sugars. However, few reports have made an attempt to elucidate the multifunctional roles of avocado heptose carbohydrates as: ‘sources of energy’, storage and phloem-mobile transport sugars, and precursors for formation of antioxidants. Assessing the avocado carbohydrates over the plant growth and development during ontogeny may, therefore, offer clues to better understand whole plant behaviour. Plant sampling was carried out over different developmental stages. Using plants grown in the light versus etiolated seedlings; sugar determinations were also done to determine what sugar is produced from which storage organs. The sugars were extracted and analysed by isocratic HPLC/RID. The embryo had 47.11 % hexose and 52.96 % heptose sugars. The seed, however, also released significant amounts of D-mannoheptulose (7.09 ± 1.44 mg g-1 d. wt) and perseitol (5.36 ± 0.61 mg g-1 d. wt). Similarly fruit and leaf tissues had significant amounts of heptoses relative to hexoses at specific phenological stages. In postharvest ‘readyto-eat’ fruit the following carbohydrate concentrations were as follows:exocarp heptoses 13 ± 0.8; hexoses 4.37 ± 1.6 mg g-1 d. wt, mesocarp heptoses 8 ± 0.2; hexoses 3.55 ± 0.12 mg g-1 d. wt), seed heptoses (only perseitol) 13 ± 1.1; hexoses 5.79 ± 0.53 mg g-1 d. wt. The results of this experiment was the first to demonstrate that the heptoses D-mannoheptulose, and its polyol form, perseitol, are found in all tissues/organs at various phenological stages of avocado growth and development. Secondly, heptoses, as well as starch are carbohydrate reserves that are found in avocado. The heptoses, beyond being abundantly produced in the avocado plant, are also found in phloem and xylem saps as mobile sugars. The study also presents data on the interconversion of the C7 sugars Dmannoheptulose and perseitol. It is deduced that D-mannoheptulose can be reduced to perseitol, and perseitol can also be oxidized to D-mannoheptulose by enzymes present in a protein extract of the mesocarp. The potential catalyzing enzyme is proposed to be an aldolase, as electrophoretic determinations prove the presence of such an enzyme during various stages of development in various plant organs. Avocado heptoses play an important role in plant growth and development and in fruit in particular. Moreover, they are reported as sources of anti-oxidants, and contribute significantly to fruit physiology if they function in coordination with other anti-oxidants in fruit tissues. To evaluate the presence of anti-oxidant systems throughout avocado fruit development, various tissues were analysed for their total and specific anti-oxidant compositions. Total anti-oxidant levels were found to be higher in the exocarp and in seed tissue than in the mesocarp. While seed tissues contained predominantly ascorbic acid (AsA) and total phenolics (TP), the anti-oxidant composition of the mesocarp was characterised by the C7 sugar, D-mannoheptulose. Among the anti-oxidant enzymes assayed, peroxidase (POX) and catalase (CAT) were present in higher concentrations than superoxide dismutase (SOD) in mesocarp tissue. Different anti-oxidant systems seem to be dominant within the various fruit tissues. Carbohydrates are the universal source of carbon for cell metabolism and provide the precursors for the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, for example via the shikimic acid pathway for phenols. The preharvest free and membrane-bound phenols, catechin and epicatechin, are distributed differently in the various fruit tissues. Membrane-bound and free phenols also play a role as anti-oxidants, with free ones being more important. KSil (potassium silicate) application to fruit as postharvest treatment was used to facilitate the release of conjugates to free phenols via lysis. This treatment improved fruit shelf life. Western blotting also revealed that postharvest Si treatment affects the expression of enzymatic anti-oxidant-catalase (CAT). Overall the thesis results revealed that C7 sugars have anti-oxidant properties and that D-mannoheptulose is the important anti-oxidant in the edible portion of the avocado fruit. Dmannoheptulose is furthermore of paramount importance as a transport sugar. Perseitol on the other hand acts as the storage product of D-mannoheptulose, which can be easily converted into D-mannoheptulose.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2009.


Carbohydrates--Metabolism., Fruit--Development., Avocado., Avocado--Composition., Avocado--Metabolism., Avocado--Physiology., Avocado--Growth., Avocado--Postharvest physiology., Avocado--Quality., Theses--Horticultural science.