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Assessment of the molecular weight distribution of tannin fractions through MALDI-TOF MS analysis of protein-tannin complexes
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An innovative mass spectrometry method was developed for determining mass distributions of tannin fractions that cannot be approached through direct MALDI-TOF analysis. It was applied to three procyanidin fractions with average degrees of polymerizations = 3, 9, and 28, respectively, and one gallotannin fraction (Tara tannin). The proposed approach consists of MALDI-TOF analysis of the soluble complexes formed between these tannin fractions and bovine serum albumin (BSA). Complexes were detected as an unresolved "hump" following the BSA signal, and spectra were mathematically processed to determine the parameters relative to the protein-tannin complexes, which are the number-average molecular weight (Mn), the weight-average molecular weight (Mw), and the polydispersity index (PI) for each tannin fraction. Regarding condensed tannins, results are consistent with those of the standard method (thiolysis followed by HPLC separation) for all tested fractions. The method was successfully applied to a hydrolyzable tannin fraction but no standard method is available for comparison.