Isolation and Characterization of Pumpkin Pectin for Drug Encapsulation

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Isolation and Characterization of Pumpkin Pectin for Drug Encapsulation
José R. R. Souza1, Judith P. A. Feitosa1*, Nágila M. P. S Ricardo1, Edy S. Brito2
1Departament of Organic and Inorganic Chemistry, Federal University of Ceará –

P. O. Box: 6.021, ZIP-Code: 60455-760, Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil

2Embrapa Tropical Agroindustry, R. Dra. Sara Mesquita, 2270, Pici, 60511-110,

Fortaleza, CE, Brazil
Pumpkin is an excellent and low cost resource of carotenoids, precursors of vitamin A. Moreover, it is also a great source of natural and low-cost pectin. Pectin is a heterogeneous complex polysaccharide found in the primary cell wall of most cells and its effects on health is receiving growing interest, especially for applications such as drug encapsulation. In this work, high-methoxyl pectin was isolated from a regional pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) by the method of acid hydrolysis. The isolated pectin was characterized by FTIR, 1H and 13C NMR, GPC, elemental analysis and Rheology.
Keywords: Pectin, pumpkin, NMR, infrared, rheology.

* Corresponding author. Tel: +55 85 33669365; fax: +55 85 33669978

E-mail address: (Judith P. A. Feitosa)

  1. Introduction

Pumpkin, a member of Cucurbitaceae family, is an excellent resource of carotenoids, precursors of vitamin A, and has been regarded as a functional food (Arima & Rodriguez-Amaya, 1990; Adams et al., 2012). It is also a low cost source of pectin (Murkovic et al., 2002). Under the dried form, pumpkin can be stored longer and used in various culinary preparations, contributing with one more food option to combat hipoavitaminose A, which affects thousands of children in Brazil and in other countries of the world.

Pectin is a multifunctional abundant component from cell walls of all plants (Ngouémazong et al., 2012; Willats et al., 2006). Pectic polysaccharides consist mostly of polymers rich in galacturonic acid, containing significant amounts of rhamnose, arabinose and galactose as well as 13 other different monosaccharides (Vincken et al., 2003). The three major polysaccharides are currently defined homogalacturonan, ramnogalacturonan I and ramnogalacturonan II (Vincken et al., 20003; Waldron et al., 2003) The composition, structure, and physiological properties of pectin can be influenced by extraction conditions as well as source, location and many other environmental factors. The network of pectin must be broken to be extracted. This may involve extraction with calcium chelating agents, dilute bases or dilute acids. Alternatively, fragments of pectic polysaccharides can be released through the use of enzymatic degradation. Pectins are typically extracted from citrus fruits and apple pomace (Waldron et al., 2003). Pectin is traditionally used as a gelling agent for jellies and marmalades. In combination with water and some other substances, it can act as a thickener, gelling agent, stabilizer, emulsifier, cation-binding agent, etc. (Bottger, 1990). It is listed among the ingredients of many food products (U.S. code, E440). The global annual consumption is estimated to be around 45,000 metric tonnes (Willats et al., 2006). One substance having so many separate properties of technological interest makes pectin a biopolymer especially valuable for medicine, food production as well as for applications in drug encapsulation (Benjamin et al., 2012; Souza et al., 2009; Ptichkina et al., 2008). Pectins also offer health benefits to consumers, for example, they are being increasingly recognized as important precursors of substrates for gastrointestinal functions and structures. Foods rich in fiber are usually recommended for diabetics, because they are able to reduce the glycemic response and thus reduce the need for insulin (Guillon & Champ, 2000). Pectin is also effective on lowering the cholesterol level in blood, removing heavy metal ions from the body, stabilizing blood pressure, and restoring intestinal functions (Voragen et al., 1995).

Although the potential stock of these raw materials enables the main pectin producers (USA, Germany, Denmark) to plan an annual increase of pectin production of approximately 3.8% (Phillips, 2000), searching for new pectin-containing raw materials is an important task of science and industry (May, 1990). In this work pectin was extracted from a regional pumpkin Cucurbita moschata, best known as “jerimum de leite” and characterized in order to be used as matrix for future encapsulation studies.
2. Experimental
2.1. Extraction of pectin

For extraction of pectin, mass of about 5 kg of pumpkin pulp was pressed in an expeller press. We obtained two types of residues: a thinner which was obtained by filtration of the juice (approx. 209g), and a thicker one. The thinner dough was dried in an oven at 60 ° C for 12 hours forming a paste that was used for the extraction procedure. For extraction by acid hydrolysis, 2L of 0.1 M HCl solution was stabilized at 65 °C and after that, approx. 200 g pumpkin pulp was added to the solution and let extracting for 2 hours. After precipitation and washing with ethanol PA (1:10 - solution: ethanol), filtration and freeze-drying, it was obtained 4.7 g of pectin that after purification by dialysis membranes remained 2.5 g of pure pectin which was used for further analysis (yield calculated from pumpkin dry fiber of approx. 6.9 %).
2.2. Infrared Spectroscopy (IR)

The Fourier transform IR spectrum (FT-IR) of pectin was recorded using a Shimadzu IR spectrophotometer (model 8300) in the range of 400 and 4000 cm−1 as KBr pellet.
2.3. 1H , 13C Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)

NMR spectra of 0.1% (w/v) solutions in D2O were recorded at 70 °C on a Fourier transform Bruker Avance DRX 500 spectrometer with an inverse multinuclear gradient probe-head equipped with z-shielded gradient coils, and with Silicon Graphics. Sodium 2,2-dimethylsilapentane-5-sulphonate(DSS) was used as the internal standard (0.00 ppm for 1H).

2.4. Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC)

The peak molar mass (Mpk) of pectin was determined by gel permeation chromatography (GPC) using a Shimadzu instrument (Ultrahydrogel linear column, 7.8 x 300 mm), at room temperature, flow rate of 0.5 ml/min, polysaccharide concentration of 0.1% (w/v) and 0.1 M NaNO3 as the solvent. A differential refractometer was used as detector. The elution volume was corrected by the use of the internal marker ethylene glycol at 11.25 ml. Pullulan samples (Shodex Denko) of molar mass 5.9 x 103, 1.18 x 104, 4.73 x 104, 2.12 x 105, and 7.88 x 105 g/mol were used as standards.

2.5. Elemental analysis – protein content

The elemental analysis of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen of pumpkin pectin was performed using a microanalyzer Carlo ERBA EA 1108.

2.6. Rheological Measurements (REO)

All rheological measurements were performed using an Advanced Rheometer AR550 (DP Union). Geometry cone-and-plate (40 mm diameter and angle of 0 59'' 1') was used for measurements of continuous flow. The viscosity of continuous flow was determined at 25 ° C in the shear range of 1-100 s-1.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Infrared Spectroscopy

An overview of the IR spectrum of pectin is shown in Figure 1 the "fingerprint" region of the spectrum (up to approx. 2000 cm-1) includes the region of 1200-1800 cm-1 as shown.

Figure 1. FTIR spectrum of pectin from pumpkin.
We can observe the region that characterizes the state of carboxylic groups (approx. 1750-1350 cm-1) (Filipov, 1992). The band at approx. 1743 cm-1 is indicative of the stretching group C = O of non-ionized carboxylic acid (methylated or protonated). Its ionization (formation of salt) leads to their disappearance, and the appearance of stretch modes of COO- in approx. 1600-1650 and 1400-1450cm-1, respectively (Filipov, 1992). The degree of methylation (DM) is defined as the amount of ester groups compared to the total amount of acid groups and carboxylic ester and it is observed that the high intensity of the band at 1743 cm-1 shows that the pectin obtained is of high degree of methylation.
3.2. NMR analysis: Determination of degree of methylation (DM) by 1H

For the determination of DM, the integrals of H-5 (see Figure 2) adjacent to ester (ICOOMe) are compared with the sum of integrals of H-5 adjacent to the ester (ICOOMe) and H-5 adjacent to the carboxylate (ICOO-).

Figure 2. Structure of a fragment of pectin.
Due to close proximity (or overlap) of the signals for H-1 and H-5COOMe, it is only possible to determine the full combined to H-1 and H-5COOMe (IH1 + ICOOMe). The value of DM was calculated at 58% (Figure 3).

Figure 3. 1H NMR spectrum of pectin.
We can also observe in the spectrum of the polysaccharide, a very large signal at 3.81 ppm related methyl groups binding to carboxyl groups of galacturonic acid. Signals around 2.1 ppm are related to acetyl groups and were not observed for the pectin. There are other signals related to D-galacturonic acid: H-1, 5.09 ppm; H-2, 3.76 ppm; H-3, 3.97 ppm; H-4, 4.41 ppm; H-5, 4.68 ppm (Tamaki et al., 2008).

Grasdalen (Oakenfull, 1991) pioneered the determination of DM by 1H NMR. He performed detailed analysis of the sequence of free galacturonic acid and pectin fragments of groups tri-and tetrameter. By using this simple method, it is possible to characterize pectins having a specific DM, and therefore, with specific gelling properties that are dependent on DM (Oakenfull, 1991; Axelos & Thibault, 1991).
3.3. Characterization of pectin by 13C NMR

The spectrum of 13C nuclear magnetic resonance for the sample of pectin is shown in Figure 4. In the spectrum of the polysaccharide, a signal at about 53.5 ppm was assigned to methyl groups attached to carboxylic groups of galacturonic acid (Keenan et al., 1985) and a signal at 173 ppm was attributed to carboxylic groups linked to methyl groups (Catoire et al., 1998).

Figure 4. 13C NMR spectrum for sample of pectin.
In the spectrum of the polysaccharide, major and smaller signals can be observed between the region of about 60.0 and 110.0 ppm. The major signs are assigned to D-galacturonic acid while the smaller signs are assigned to D-galactose, as shown in Table 1 (Tamaki et al., 2008, Ha et al., 2005). These chemical shifts are in good agreement with those related to the pattern of pectin studied by Tamaki et al., (2008). There are also less intense signal assignments made by Ha et al., (2005) related to arabinan but these signals are not very intense compared to the noise signals of the spectrum and therefore not all signals will be shown in the table below. There are also other signals reported by Ha et al., (2005) related to other galactan carbons that are in the same situation.
Table 1 - Assignments to the peaks of the 13C spectrum of pectic polysaccharides.



Shift (ppm)


C-6 free



C-6 esther



C-6 esther


















































3.4. Gel permeation chromatography (GPC)

A single and wide peak with a little shoulder is present in the chromatogram of pectin sample (Figure 5). The peak molar mass (Mpk) of polysaccharide was estimated using pullulan (a neutral polysaccharide) standard plot. Taking into account that pectin is a polyelectrolyte, it is expected that it elutes at a lower volume than a neutral macromolecule with the same molar mass. This is due to chain stiffening and extent, as a consequence of electrostatic repulsion of carboxylate groups.

Figure 5. GPC of pectin sample.

The estimated Mpk is 9.5 x 105 g/mol. So, the molar mass of pectin is equal or lower than this value. Published molar mass values for pectins ranges from 1.4 x 105 to 2.3 105 g/mol (Yoo et al., 2006; Morris et al., 2008).

3.5. Elemental analysis – protein content

The data of microanalysis of pectin are shown in Table 2. The amount of protein obtained was 2.7%. The calculation was performed using a conversion factor equal to 5.85 (Azero & Andrade, 2002).

Table 2 - Microanalysis data for pumpkin pectin.

% C


% N


% H


The instrument automatically determines C, H, and N by combustion of the sample, separation of the combustion gases and measurement by thermal conductivity detector.

3.6. Rheological properties – flow and oscillatory behavior

The flow curves of pectin solutions at concentrations 1-5 % are shown in Figure 6. Observe that the solution of 5% pectin showed pseudoplastic flow behavior. For the flow curve of 1 and 3% pectin solutions, significantly lower values were observed in a Newtonian flow behavior.

Figure 6. Flow curves of continuous shear of 1% (■), 3% (●) and 5% (▲) pectin solutions at 25 °C.

4. Conclusions

IR spectroscopy and 1H NMR were effective to qualify the DM of the pectin sample. DM was 58% for the sample by 1H, and was characterized as high-methoxyl pectin. By 13C NMR spectroscopy, different groups of known polymers were identified in the chains of pectic polysaccharides obtained.

The molecular peak was determined by GPC as a value of 9.5 x 105 g / mol. Shear measurements, with temperature variations for the pectin solution and pectin with sugar showed the possible formation of stronger interactions between the molecular pectin chains and sucrose around 45 ° C. The rheological study of continuous shear of pectin solution showed Newtonian behavior.
5. Acknowledgments

The authors would like to express their thanks to CNPq for financial support, to CENAUREMN at the Federal University of Ceará for performing the NMR analysis, and to Prof. Edy S. Brito (Embrapa) for the help with pumpkin processing.

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