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Theme 2: Isolation and characterization of bioactive phenolic and carotenoid compounds from pericarps of Arecaceae fruits

While exploring the possibility of utilizing this mesocarp wastes (of tender coconut) as a cheaper alternative for isolating phenolics of economic importance, we discovered 4-hydroxybenzoic acid as the major phenolic compound accumulated in the mesocarp-wall in a very high amount. These raised our interest to investigate the other genera of this Arecaceae family. Next, we demonstrated an unusually high accumulation of 4-hydroxybenzoic acid in the mesocarp cell wall of 22 genera of Arecaceae (Palmae) available at the Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah. The content varied from 5.61-mg/g dry wt (Areca catechu) to 1.01-mg/g dry wt (Roystonea regia). Ecological implications as well as a possible hypothesis for considering this phenolic acid as a chemotaxonomic marker of this particular family were also argued.

Subsequently, in a CSIR-funded project, we looked in-depth on the profile of major soluble and wall-bound phenolics that accumulated in the pericarps tissue of Cocos nucifera. An isomer of caffeic acid-conjugate, 5-O-caffeoylshikimic acid was found to be the major soluble phenolics accumulated not only in the mesocarp tissue but also in the adventitious roots of C. nucifera.

Currently we focus our interest on Areca catechu, where we detected carotenes and phenolic acids in the soluble extracts of pericarps tissue. The major phenolic compound detected in the soluble extracts of mesocarp of green Areca fruit was p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, while a number of carotenes were found in the soluble pericarp extracts of ripened Areca fruit. Out of these, β-carotene only constitute 30% of the total carotene amount. Isomers of ζ-carotene are next dominating carotenes. Work is being continued to identify all major carotenes and assessment of their bioactive potentials. This is important in the context of generating valuable medicinally important natural products from Areca fruit wastes.

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