The substance synthesised by the tomato plant when subjected to stress was until now, completely unknown.
Writing in the journal Environmental and Experimental Botany, researchers from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMCP), Spain, suggested that the new antioxidant, known as Feruloylnoradrenaline (FNA), could be used by the food industry as a preservative because of its action as a retarder of lipid oxidation.They suggested that the powerful antioxidant would prevent changes such as fats and oils becoming rancid, which diminish food quality, and added that the antioxidant could also be used in supplements and functional food products.
The Spanish researchers reported that the antioxidant power of the new compound is 14 times higher than that of resveratrol – a well-known antioxidant found in red wine, which has been suggested to delay cellular aging.
The team have now registered national and international patents for the new antioxidant and the laboratory procedures used to isolate and synthesise it chemically.
The researchers, led by José María Bellés, explained that when a plant is stimulated by a stressor, it reacts and activates mechanisms that alter the levels of certain compounds.
“Many phenolic compounds are produced by plants in response to biotic or abiotic stress; these compounds have multiple effects, including antioxidant activity,” said Vicente Conejero, director of the research group.
It was while studying these stress circumstances, by analysing the secondary metabolites produced, that the research team discovered the production of the previously unknown feruloylnoradrenaline (FNA) antioxidant compound.
Bellés and colleagues report that they have developed a simple and economical process for synthesising FNA in the laboratory.
The authors said that the novel FNA antioxidant “possessed the highest free radical scavenging activity among the induced secondary metabolites, and was much higher than that of the synthetic antioxidant butylhydroxytoluene (BHT) control extensively used in the food industry to avoid undesirable oxidations.”
The IBMCP team added that the compound may soon be ready to be introduced in the market, as there is a simple, inexpensive method of production for the antioxidant, which offers ‘significant advantages’ compared to other commercial antioxidants.
“Given the very potent free radical scavenging activity of trans-FNA, it would be interesting to generate tomato plants with elevated levels of this compound,” said Bellés and colleagues
“If this strategy is successful, these transgenic tomato plants would be useful to investigate the role of trans-FNA in tomato pathogen interaction and as an in vivo anti-pathogenic compound,” they added.
Source: Environmental and Experimental Botany
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2011.06.003
“Identification of defence metabolites in tomato plants infected by the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae”
Authors: M.P. López-Gresa, C. Torres, L. Campos, P. Lisón, et al