Authentication of saffron spice accessions from its common substitutes via a multiplex approach of UV/VIS fingerprints and UPLC/MS using molecular networking and chemometrics

Author's Department

Chemistry Department

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Nesrine M. Hegazi, Amira R. Khattab, Andrej Frolov, Ludger A. Wessjohann, Mohamed A. Farag

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Research Article

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Saffron is a spice revered for its unique flavor and health attributes often subjected to fraudulence. In this study, molecular networking as a visualization tool for UPLC/MS dataset of saffron and its common substitutes i.e. safflower and calendula (n = 21) was employed for determining genuineness of saffron and detecting its common substitutes i.e. safflower and calendula. Saffron was abundant in flavonol-O-glycosides and crocetin esters versus richness of flavanones/chalcones glycosides in safflower and cinnamates/terpenes in calendula. OPLS-DA identified differences in UPLC/MS profiles of different saffron accessions where oxo-hydroxy-undecenoic acid-O-hexoside was posed as saffron authentication marker and aided in discrimination between Spanish saffron of high quality from its inferior grade i.e. Iranian saffron along with crocetin di-O-gentiobiosyl ester and kaempferol-O-sophoroside. Kaempferol-O-neohesperidoside and N,N,N,-p-coumaroyl spermidine were characteristic safflower metabolites, whereas, calendulaglycoside C and di-O-caffeoyl quinic acid were unique to calendula. UV/VIS fingerprint spectral regions of picrocrocin (230–260 nm) and crocin derivatives (400–470 nm) were posed as being discriminatory of saffron authenticity and suggestive it can replace UPLC/MS in saffrom quality determination.

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