Evaluation of the Degree of Polymerization of the Proanthocyanidins in Cranberry by Molecular Sieving and Characterization of the Low Molecular Weight Fractions by UHPLC-Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry.
4-dimethylammino-cinnamaldehyde (DMAC) assays quantify total proanthocyanidins (PACs) but do not provide qualitative PAC molecular weight distribution information and cannot discriminate between A- and B-type PACs. We developed an efficient method for assessing PAC molecular weight distributions. The PACs from three commercial cranberry extracts (A1-A3) were fractionated by molecular sieves with cut-offs of 3, 10, 30, 50, and 100 kDa, and each fraction was analyzed by DMAC assays. A1, A2, and A3 contained 27%, 33%, and 15% PACs, respectively. Approximately 28 PACs, 20 flavonols, and 15 phenolic acids were identified by UHPLC-DAD-Orbitrap MS in A1 and A3, while A2 contained only flavan-3-ols. Epicatechin was the main monomer in A1 and A3, and catechin was the main in A2. Procyanidin A2 was the main dimer in A1 and A3, representing more than 85% of the total dimers, while it constituted approximately only 24% of A2. A1 and A3 contained quercetin, isorhamnetin, myricetin, and their glycosides, which were totally absent in A2. In A1 and A3 the PACs were mainly distributed in the fractions 30-3 and <3 kDa, while in A2 more than 70% were present in the fraction less than 3 kDa. Overall, obtained data strongly suggests that A2 is not cranberry-derived, or is adulterated with another source of PACs.