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Metabolite profiling of red and blue potatoes revealed cultivar and tissue specific patterns for anthocyanins and other polyphenols


Main conclusion

Metabolite profiling of tuber flesh and peel for selected colored potato varieties revealed cultivar and tissue specific profiles of anthocyanins and other polyphenols with variations in composition and concentration.

Starchy tubers of Solanum tuberosum are a staple crop and food in many countries. Among cultivated potato varieties a huge biodiversity exists, including an increasing number of red and purple colored cultivars. This coloration relates to the accumulation of anthocyanins and is supposed to offer nutritional benefits possibly associated with the antioxidative capacity of anthocyanins. However, the anthocyanin composition and its relation to the overall polyphenol constitution in colored potato tubers have not been investigated closely. This study focuses on the phytochemical characterization of the phenolic composition of a variety of colored potato tubers, both for peel and flesh tissues. First, liquid chromatography (LC) separation coupled to UV and mass spectrometry (MS) detection of polyphenolic compounds of potato tubers from 57 cultivars was used to assign groups of potato cultivars differing in their anthocyanin and polyphenol profiles. Tissues from 19 selected cultivars were then analyzed by LC separation coupled to multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) to detect quantitative differences in anthocyanin and polyphenol composition. The measured intensities of 21 anthocyanins present in the analyzed potato cultivars and tissues could be correlated with the specific tuber coloration. Besides secondary metabolites well-known for potato tubers, the metabolic profiling led to the detection of two anthocyanins not described for potato tuber previously, which we tentatively annotated as pelargonidin feruloyl-xylosyl-glucosyl-galactoside and cyanidin 3-p-coumaroylrutinoside-5-glucoside. We detected significant correlations between some of the measured metabolites, as for example the negative correlation between the main anthocyanins of red and blue potato cultivars. Mainly hydroxylation and methylation patterns of the B-ring of dihydroflavonols, leading to the formation of specific anthocyanidin backbones, can be assigned to a distinct coloring of the potato cultivars and tuber tissues. However, basically the same glycosylation and acylation reactions occur regardless of the main anthocyanidin precursor present in the respective red and blue/purple tissue. Thus, the different anthocyanin profiles in red and blue potato cultivars likely relate to superior regulation of the expression and activities of hydroxylases and methyltransferases rather than to differences for downstream glycosyl- and acyltransferases. In this regard, the characterized potato cultivars represent a valuable resource for the molecular analysis of the genetic background and the regulation of anthocyanin side chain modification.

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Electrospray ionization


Multiple reaction monitoring


Principal component analysis


Photodiode array


Triple quadrupole mass spectrometry


Ultra-high resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometry


Ultra-performance liquid chromatography


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This research has been financially supported by the ERA-IB ANTHOPLUS project (031A336A0) and by the COST Action “The quest for tolerant varieties—Phenotyping at plant and cellular level” (FA1306).

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Correspondence to Hans-Peter Mock.

Electronic supplementary material

Supplemental Data Files: Raw data of this study are available for download under http://dx.doi.org/10.5447/IPK/2017/2 and comprise: (i) the Bruker Daltonics LC-UV/MS raw data files, (ii) the Waters LC–MS/MRM raw data files, (iii) the integrated peak areas for 23 tentatively annotated anthocyanin peaks (according to Supplemental Fig. 1 g) in tuber flesh and peel, respectively, of 57 potato genotypes, and (iv) the integrated peak areas for 21 tentatively annotated anthocyanins and 31 polyphenols (according to Table 3), respectively, in tuber flesh and/or peel of 19 potato genotypes. Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


Supplemental Fig. 1 a-g 24 anthocyanin profile groups, six profiles found in tuber flesh (Group 1-6 F, a and b) and 18 profiles found in tuber peel (Group 1-18 P, b to f). Bar charts (left) show the peak area of up to 23 tentatively annotated anthocyanins (g), averaged within each group. Red and blue columns represent the dominating colors of the appropriate tissues. Anthocyanins mainly contributing to the group variance are blue-rimmed. Tables (right) comprise all varieties/tissues assorted to the appropriate group. *Cultivars with highest abundance in main anthocyanins of respective tissues, and therefore selected as group representative samples for MRM analysis. a-gReferences used for compound annotation included: (Goto et al. (1982); Takeda et al. (1988); Naito et al. (1998); Hillebrand et al. (2009); Zhang et al. (2009); Kim et al. (2012)); http://www.genome.jp/dbget-bin/www_bget?pathway+sot00942 (PPTX 738 kb)

Supplemental Fig. 2 19 colored potato genotypes with different anthocyanin profiles in tuber flesh/peel selected via LC-UV/MS profile analysis (PPTX 2315 kb)

Supplemental Fig. 3 a-d Pearson correlation analysis results representing correlation coefficient |r|-values and significance P values in categories *** P < 0.001, ** P < 0.01, * P < 0.05, . P < 0.1, as well as scatter plots (regression line (red), data point tissue wise separated (yellow = flesh, orange = peel)) for the correlation between all anthocyanins (A1 to A21) and additional polyphenolic compounds (P1 to P31) (a, b), within the group of anthocyanins (c), and within the other polyphenols (d) detected in potato tuber tissues via LC–MS/MRM. Abbreviations of compounds are displayed according to Table 2 and 3, respectively (PPTX 1055 kb)

Supplemental Table 1 Colored potato genotypes analyzed by LC-UV/MS for initial anthocyanin profiling (DOCX 24 kb)

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Oertel, A., Matros, A., Hartmann, A. et al. Metabolite profiling of red and blue potatoes revealed cultivar and tissue specific patterns for anthocyanins and other polyphenols. Planta 246, 281–297 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-017-2718-4

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  • Colored potatoes
  • Flavonoids
  • Metabolomics
  • Solanum tuberosum L