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Carotenoids in Several Transylvanian Maize Hybrids
1  University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj Napoca, Romania
2  Research & Development Station for Agriculture, Turda, Romania


The increased interest in the biotechnology of carotenoids has been mainly generated by their health-related properties: carotenoids can act as free radical scavengers and antioxidants, while an inverse relationship exists between the dietary intake of carotenoid-rich foods and the incidence of certain types of cancer, UV-induced skin damage, coronary heart diseases, cataracts and macular degeneration. Carotenoids with β-ring end groups act as precursors for the production of vitamin A in animal cells. Maize is one of the most important crops due to its high productivity and its multiple uses as a food source for humans, livestock feed and as a raw material in various industries; among staple crops, it has a relatively high amount of carotenoids. The major aim of this work is to characterize the carotenoid content from several Transylvanian maize hybrids produced by the Agricultural Research and Development Station (ARDS) Turda. Maize kernels were milled, weighed and extracted with ethanol and acetone, the resulting suspension being filtrated under vacuum, then by membrane filtration (0.47 mm). Total carotenoids were determined by UV/VIS spectrophotometry, while major carotenoids were determined by reverse-phased high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) using a Perkin Elmer Flexar system with a UV/VIS detector. The total carotenoids’ content of maize grains revealed significant differences between certain hybrids; HPLC analysis emphasized that lutein is the major carotenoid in most hybrids, while in a smaller number of cases β-cryptoxanthin was the major carotenoid. Zeaxanthin and β-cryptoxanthin are in most cases in the mid-level range of concentrations, while b-carotene is a minor carotenoid. HPLC analysis, principal component analysis and cluster analysis revealed five HPLC fingerprint profiles. Since the β-cryptoxanthin and β-carotene are present in only small quantities, the provitamin A value of the investigated hybrids is rather modest; however, certain hybrids proved to contain significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin – important in many physiological processes. Besides being a helpful tool for future nutrition studies, this work is in the meantime a valuable tool in assisting the breeding activity for improvement the nutritional quality of maize.

Keywords: carotenoids, maize, chromatography, HPLC, spectrophotometry, analysis, fingerprinting, nutrition, quality