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The presence of pipecolic acid and pipecolic acid betaine, also known as homostachydrine, is herein reported for the first time in Citrus genus plants. Homostachydrine was found in fruits, seeds, and leaves of orange, lemon, and bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso et Poit). As homostachydrine was not commercially available, as a comparative source, extracts of alfalfa leaves ( Medicago sativa L.) were used, in which homostachydrine is present at high concentration. Then, the results where confirmed by comparison with an authentic standard synthesized and purified starting from pipecolic acid. The synthesized standard was characterized by a ESI-MS/MS study using a 3D ion-trap mass spectrometer. When subjected to MS/MS fragmentation in positive ion mode, homostachydrine, unlike its lower homologue proline betaine (also known as stachydrine), showed a pattern of numerous ionic fragments that allowed unambiguous identification of the compound. For the quantitation in the plant sources, high sensitivity and specificity were achieved by monitoring the transition (158 → 72), which is absent in the fragmentation patterns of other major osmolytes commonly used as markers for studies of abiotic stress. As for the metabolic origin of homostachydrine, the occurrence in citrus plants of pipecolic acid leads to the hypothesis that it could act as a homostachydrine precursor through direct methylation.


Luigi Servillo, Alfonso Giovane, Maria Luisa Balestrieri, Giovanna Ferrari, Domenico Cautela, Domenico Castaldo. Occurrence of pipecolic acid and pipecolic acid betaine (homostachydrine) in Citrus genus plants. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2012 Jan 11;60(1):315-21

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PMID: 22208890

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