Research Article: Multi-approach metabolomics analysis and artificial simplified phytocomplexes reveal cultivar-dependent synergy between polyphenols and ascorbic acid in fruits of the sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.)

Date Published: July 21, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Mauro Commisso, Martino Bianconi, Flavia Di Carlo, Stefania Poletti, Alessandra Bulgarini, Francesca Munari, Stefano Negri, Matteo Stocchero, Stefania Ceoldo, Linda Avesani, Michael Assfalg, Gianni Zoccatelli, Flavia Guzzo, Chunxian Chen.


Fruits of the sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) accumulate a range of antioxidants that can help to prevent cardiovascular disease, inflammation and cancer. We tested the in vitro antioxidant activity of 18 sweet cherry cultivars collected from 12 farms in the protected geographical indication region of Marostica (Vicenza, Italy) during two growing seasons. Multiple targeted and untargeted metabolomics approaches (NMR, LC-MS, HPLC-DAD, HPLC-UV) as well as artificial simplified phytocomplexes representing the cultivars Sandra Tardiva, Sandra and Grace Star were then used to determine whether the total antioxidant activity reflected the additive effects of each compound or resulted from synergistic interactions. We found that the composition of each cultivar depended more on genetic variability than environmental factors. Furthermore, phenolic compounds were the principal source of antioxidant activity and experiments with artificial simplified phytocomplexes indicated strong synergy between the anthocyanins and quercetins/ascorbic acid specifically in the cultivar Sandra Tardiva. Our data therefore indicate that the total antioxidant activity of sweet cherry fruits may originate from cultivar-dependent interactions among different classes of metabolite.

Partial Text

Many environmental and lifestyle factors, as well as the normal process of aging, can trigger an imbalance between antioxidant defence mechanisms and free radical pressure from excess levels of reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species in the body, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammation and cancer [1]. Fruits and vegetables help to prevent these diseases when consumed as part of a healthy diet [2,3] and polyphenols play a prominent role in this protective activity [4–6].

Our data show that the metabolic composition of sweet cherry extracts is mainly cultivar-dependent, whereas environmental factors that affect secondary metabolism play a less significant role. The in vitro antioxidant activity of sweet cherry extracts, measured by FRAP and ABTS assays, depends largely on the phenolic composition, and primarily on the anthocyanin content, both of which are influenced strongly by the cultivar. Moreover, strong synergistic interactions between the anthocyanins and quercetins/ascorbic acid were revealed by using an artificial simplified phytocomplex representing Sandra Tardiva composition. In order to gain insight into the real in vivo antioxidant activity of the natural and artificial cherry matrices, bioavailability investigation of cherry components and in vivo antioxidant assays must be performed.