Identification and distribution of simple and acylated betacyanins in the Amaranthaceae.
Red-colored plants in the family Amaranthaceae are recognized as a rich source of diverse and unique betacyanins. The distribution of betacyanins in 37 species of 8 genera in the Amaranthaceae was investigated. A total of 16 kinds of betacyanins were isolated and characterized by HPLC, spectral analyses, and MS. They consisted of 6 simple (nonacylated) betacyanins and 10 acylated betacyanins, including 8 amaranthine-type pigments, 6 gomphrenin-type pigments, and 2 betanin-type pigments. Acylated betacyanins were identified as betanidin 5-O-beta-glucuronosylglucoside or betanidin 6-O-beta-glucoside acylated with ferulic, p-coumaric, or 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acids. Total betacyanin content in the 37 species ranged from 0.08 to 1.36 mg/g of fresh weight. Simple betacyanins (such as amaranthine, which averaged 91.5% of total peak area) were widespread among all species of 8 genera. Acylated betacyanins were distributed among 11 species of 6 genera, with the highest proportion occurring in Iresine herbstii (79.6%) and Gomphrena globosa (68.4%). Some cultivated species contained many more acylated betacyanins than wild species, representing a potential new source of these pigments as natural colorants.