Nutraceuticals are defined “as a food or parts of food that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of diseases.” Phenolic compounds form one of the main classes of secondary metabolites in plant kingdom. Recent research has shown that these compounds are promising nutraceuticals for control of various disorders. Among polyphenols, flavonoids and their glycosides constitute one of the major classes of all plant secondary metabolites. They are widely distributed natural compounds that attracted researchers, food manufacturers and consumers due to their antioxidant properties as well as their role in the prevention of various diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes or osteoporosis.
The use and effectiveness of flavonoids, however, sometimes are hampered by their physicochemical properties such as limited solubility, low hydrophobicity and poor compatibility with biological membranes. Therefore, chemical modification of flavonoid affecting these properties has long been a focus of scientific and industrial interest. Increasing molecular weight of the polyphenols may overcome their limitations. In this way, high molecular weight polyphenols have been reported to exhibit enhanced biological properties with longer circulation time in vivo. Therefore, different approaches have been followed to modify the chemical structure of flavonoids glycosides. The objective of this research line is the oxidative oligomerization of flavonoids by natural oxidative enzymes.
The enzymatic polymerization of flavonoids by laccases or peroxidases has been reported to be an efficient method to enhance physiological properties, such as antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activity, and a relatively longer circulation time in vivo.
In this project, we have focused our attention on the oxidative oligomerization of two model flavonoids glycosides, rutin and esculin, by natural laccase from Trametes versicolor and horseradish peroxidase.
The working plan of this project comprises the following phases:
- Extraction, purification and characterization of rutin and esculin from residual biomass: leaves of Eucalyptus globulus and horse chestnut, respectively;
- Optimization of the enzymatic reaction using the commercial substrates;
- Selection of the enzyme and conditions that give the product with enhanced properties; iv) Design and operation of enzymatic membrane reactors, based on free and immobilized enzyme forming cross-linked aggregates;
- Evaluation of the extracts as substrates of the enzymatic reaction and comparison with commercial substrates;
- Economic and environmental analysis of the integral technology.
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