Water Retention Capacity of Polysaccharides from Prickly Pear Nopals of Opuntia Ficus Indica and Opuntia Litoralis: Physical–Chemical Approach
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Polysaccharides were isolated from nopals mucilage pulp and peel of Opuntia Ficus Indica (OFI) and Opuntia litoralis (OL) by aqueous extraction and purified by ultrafiltration. Studying the glycosyl residue composition, these polysaccharides were assumed to be rhamnogalacturonan I (RG-I). The macromolecular features of these compounds have been characterized by SEC/MALLS and by low shear viscosimetry. In the present work, we have undertaken a comparative study about different polysaccharides resulting from OFI and OL growing in different area. This comparison is to see the influence of the geographical area in which these two plants push on the mechanism of retention of water by the different polysaccharides extract. The polysaccharides resulting from the nopal peels of the two plants are highly methylated (>70%), thus they are much more hydrophobic especially for peels of OFI growing in the desert area than those resulting from pulps. Consequently, they probably prevent the evaporation of water in nopals by increasing their water retention capacity. Prickly pear nopals of OFI and OL contain a significant amount of water (>80%), carbohydrates (75% compared to the soluble matter), proteins (8% compared to the soluble matter) and salt (17% compared to the soluble matter). Thus, they represent an important source of water and alimentation especially in the arid and semi-arid areas.
KeywordsWater retention Polysaccharides Opuntia Ficus Indica Opuntia Litoralis
The research reported in this paper was supported by French–Tunisian cooperation (CNRS/DGRST project 05/R12-08). The authors thank Dr C. Morvan for helpful for sugar analysis.
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