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Special Issue "Saffron (Crocus sativus, L.): Omics and Other Techniques in Authenticity, Quality and Bioactivity Studies"

A special issue of Molecules (ISSN 1420-3049). This special issue belongs to the section "Natural Products".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2015)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Maria Z. Tsimidou

Professor on Food Chemistry, Chair COST ACTION FA1101 “Saffron-OMICS”, Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Technology, School of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh), University Campus, 54124, Thessaloniki, Greece
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +30-2310997847
Interests: natural products and ingredients and their techno and bio-functionalities in food and supplements; structure activity studies in antioxidants, squalene, olive oil phenols, saffron active constituents; saffron and olive oil quality, authenticity, bioactivity; metabolomics
Guest Editor
Dr. Petros A. Tarantilis

Assoc. Professor on Instrumental Chemical Analysis of Plant Natural Products, WG3 Leader COST ACTION FA1101 “Saffron-OMICS”; Laboratory of Chemistry, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, School of Food, Biotechnology and Development, Agricultural University of Athens (A.U.A.), 75, Iera Odos, 11855, Athens, Greece
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +30-2105294265
Interests: isolation, purification and structure determination of natural products using chromatographic and spectroscopic techniques; development of new techniques for separation, evaluation and analysis of main compounds of plants cultivated in Greece as Saffron (Crocus sativus, L.) and Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs); instrumental methods of plants and food analysis; FT-IR and Raman Spectroscopic study of microorganisms

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In 2015 we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of our journal Molecules. To date the journal has published more than 7,000 papers and the journal website attracts 60,000 monthly visits and more than 200,000 monthly page-views. Thanks are due to our readers, innumerable authors, anonymous peer reviewers, editors, and all the people working in some way for the journal who have joined their efforts for years. Without your help, we would never have achieved this.

In honor of this anniversary, a special issue entitled “Saffron (Crocus sativus, L): Omics and Other Techniques in Authenticity, Quality and Bioactivity Studies” is planned, aiming at bringing together recent efforts and advances of researchers all over the world regarding hot topics such as authenticity control to combat fraud and mislabeling of this most precious spice, to safeguard consumers by addressing quality aspects including biological safety of spices, and, most importantly, to strengthen scientific evidence for bioavailability and bioactivity studies and relevant applications from the fields of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and medicine. Interest in the active apocarotenoids of this sterile triploid Crocus species seems to be a never ending story that started somewhere in the basin of the Mediterranean and southeast Asia and has been, throughout the centuries, a commercial product, in stigmatized styles, rich in sugar esters of crocetin, picrocrocin and particular volatiles, all of which have found multiple uses ranging from art to medicine and from food to religious practices. Today, the plant cultivation has expanded from east to west in the Northern Hemisphere and has also been transferred to the south, where it has also found friendly environments in which to thrive. Consumption of the spice is not only a local habit in production areas (e.g., Iran, India, Greece, and Spain), but is a global trend, mainly in rich countries (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, USA, northern European countries). Omics and other modern techniques can reveal more hidden information about this unique plant material, which, due to its properties and commercial price, is often named “the gold of the earth”. We kindly encourage all research groups covering various areas of the above topics to contribute to this Issue so that we achieve our aim of offering a comprehensive reference publication.

Prof. Dr. Maria Z. Tsimidou
Dr. Petros A. Tarantilis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Molecules is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial Special Issue “Saffron (Crocus sativus, L.): Omics and Other Techniques in Authenticity, Quality, and Bioactivity Studies”
Molecules 2017, 22(1), 10; doi:10.3390/molecules22010010
Received: 20 December 2016 / Accepted: 21 December 2016 / Published: 23 December 2016
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Research

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Open AccessArticle Genetic and Epigenetic Approaches for the Possible Detection of Adulteration and Auto-Adulteration in Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) Spice
Molecules 2016, 21(3), 343; doi:10.3390/molecules21030343
Received: 2 November 2015 / Revised: 5 February 2016 / Accepted: 4 March 2016 / Published: 11 March 2016
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1678 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is very expensive and, because of this, often subject to adulteration. Modern genetic fingerprinting techniques are an alternative low cost technology to the existing chemical techniques, which are used to control the purity of food products. Buddleja officinalis
[...] Read more.
Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is very expensive and, because of this, often subject to adulteration. Modern genetic fingerprinting techniques are an alternative low cost technology to the existing chemical techniques, which are used to control the purity of food products. Buddleja officinalis Maxim, Gardenia jasminoides Ellis, Curcuma longa L., Carthamus tinctorius L. and Calendula officinalis L. are among the most frequently-used adulterants in saffron spice. Three commercial kits were compared concerning the ability to recover PCR-grade DNA from saffron, truly adulterated samples and possible adulterants, with a clear difference among them, mainly with the processed samples. Only one of the three kits was able to obtain amplifiable DNA from almost all of the samples, with the exception of extracts. On the recovered DNA, new markers were developed based on the sequence of the plastid genes matK and rbcL. These primers, mainly those developed on matK, were able to recognize saffron and the adulterant species and also in mixtures with very low percentages of adulterant. Finally, considering that the addition of different parts of saffron flowers is one of the most widespread adulterations, by analyzing the DNA of the different parts of the flower (styles, stamens and tepals) at the genetic and epigenetic level, we succeeded in finding differences between the three tissues that can be further evaluated for a possible detection of the kind of fraud. Full article
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Open AccessCommunication On the Traceability of Commercial Saffron Samples Using 1H-NMR and FT-IR Metabolomics
Molecules 2016, 21(3), 286; doi:10.3390/molecules21030286
Received: 16 December 2015 / Revised: 24 February 2016 / Accepted: 25 February 2016 / Published: 29 February 2016
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (438 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
In previous works on authentic samples of saffron of known history (harvest and processing year, storage conditions, and length of time) some biomarkers were proposed using both FT-IR and NMR metabolomics regarding the shelf life of the product. This work addresses the difficulties
[...] Read more.
In previous works on authentic samples of saffron of known history (harvest and processing year, storage conditions, and length of time) some biomarkers were proposed using both FT-IR and NMR metabolomics regarding the shelf life of the product. This work addresses the difficulties to trace back the “age” of commercial saffron samples of unknown history, sets a limit value above which these products can be considered substandard, and offers a useful tool to combat saffron mislabeling and fraud with low-quality saffron material. Investigations of authentic and commercial saffron samples of different origin and harvest year, which had been stored under controlled conditions for different lengths of time, allowed a clear-cut clustering of samples in two groups according to the storage period irrespectively of the provenience. In this respect, the four-year cut off point proposed in our previous work assisted to trace back the “age” of unknown samples and to check for possible mislabeling practices. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Insight of Saffron Proteome by Gel-Electrophoresis
Molecules 2016, 21(2), 167; doi:10.3390/molecules21020167
Received: 16 December 2015 / Revised: 22 January 2016 / Accepted: 26 January 2016 / Published: 29 January 2016
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (2627 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Saffron is a spice comprised of the dried stigmas and styles of Crocus sativus L. flowers and, since it is very expensive, it is frequently adulterated. So far, proteomic tools have never been applied to characterize the proteome of saffron or identify possible
[...] Read more.
Saffron is a spice comprised of the dried stigmas and styles of Crocus sativus L. flowers and, since it is very expensive, it is frequently adulterated. So far, proteomic tools have never been applied to characterize the proteome of saffron or identify possible cases of fraud. In this study, 1D-Gel Electrophoresis was carried out to characterize the protein profile of (i) fresh stigmas and styles of the plant; (ii) dried stigmas and styles from different geographical origins (Spanish, Italian, Greek and Iranian) that had been stored for various periods of time after their processing; and (iii) two common plant adulterants, dried petals of Carthamus tinctorius L. and dried fruits of Gardenia jasminoides Ellis. A selective protein extraction protocol was applied to avoid interference from colored saffron metabolites, such as crocins, during electrophoretic analyses of saffron. We succeeded in separating and assigning the molecular weights to more than 20 proteins. In spite of the unavailability of the genome of saffron, we were able to identify five proteins by Peptide Mass Fingerprinting: phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase 3, heat shock cognate 70 KDa protein, crocetin glucosyltransferase 2, α-1,4-glucan-protein synthase and glyceraldehydes-3-phosphate dehydrogenase-2. Our findings indicate that (i) few bands are present in all saffron samples independently of origin and storage time, with amounts that significantly vary among samples and (ii) aging during saffron storage is associated with a reduction in the number of detectable bands, suggesting that proteases are still active. The protein pattern of saffron was quite distinct from those of two common adulterants, such as the dried petals of Carthamus tinctorius and the dried fruits of Gardenia jasminoides indicating that proteomic analyses could be exploited for detecting possible frauds. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Inhibitory Effect of Crocin(s) on Lens α-Crystallin Glycation and Aggregation, Results in the Decrease of the Risk of Diabetic Cataract
Molecules 2016, 21(2), 143; doi:10.3390/molecules21020143
Received: 15 November 2015 / Revised: 14 January 2016 / Accepted: 20 January 2016 / Published: 26 January 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1125 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The current study investigates the inhibitory effect of crocin(s), also known as saffron apocarotenoids, on protein glycation and aggregation in diabetic rats, and α-crystallin glycation. Thus, crocin(s) were administered by intraperitoneal injection to normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. The cataract progression was recorded
[...] Read more.
The current study investigates the inhibitory effect of crocin(s), also known as saffron apocarotenoids, on protein glycation and aggregation in diabetic rats, and α-crystallin glycation. Thus, crocin(s) were administered by intraperitoneal injection to normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. The cataract progression was recorded regularly every two weeks and was classified into four stages. After eight weeks, the animals were sacrificed and the parameters involved in the cataract formation were measured in the animal lenses. Some parameters were also determined in the serum and blood of the rats. In addition, the effect of crocin(s) on the structure and chaperone activity of α-crystallin in the presence of glucose was studied by different methods. Crocin(s) lowered serum glucose levels of diabetic rats and effectively maintained plasma total antioxidants, glutathione levels and catalase activity in the lens of the animals. In the in vitro study, crocin(s) inhibited α-crystallin glycation and aggregation. Advanced glycation end products fluorescence, hydrophobicity and protein cross-links were also decreased in the presence of crocin(s). In addition, the decreased chaperone activity of α-crystallin in the presence of glucose changed and became close to the native value by the addition of crocin(s) in the medium. Crocin(s) thus showed a powerful inhibitory effect on α-crystallin glycation and preserved the structure-function of this protein. Crocin(s) also showed the beneficial effects on prevention of diabetic cataract. Full article
Open AccessArticle Enhanced Bioaccessibility of Crocetin Sugar Esters from Saffron in Infusions Rich in Natural Phenolic Antioxidants
Molecules 2015, 20(10), 17760-17774; doi:10.3390/molecules201017760
Received: 25 August 2015 / Revised: 15 September 2015 / Accepted: 21 September 2015 / Published: 25 September 2015
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (792 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The present study aims to examine whether and to what extent the bioaccessibility of the major saffron apocarotenoids, namely crocetin sugar esters (CRTSEs), is affected by the presence of strong water-soluble antioxidants, ingredients of the herbs found in commercial tea blends with saffron.
[...] Read more.
The present study aims to examine whether and to what extent the bioaccessibility of the major saffron apocarotenoids, namely crocetin sugar esters (CRTSEs), is affected by the presence of strong water-soluble antioxidants, ingredients of the herbs found in commercial tea blends with saffron. An in vitro digestion model was applied to infusions from these products to investigate the possible changes. All of the studied infusions were rich in total phenols (9.9–22.5 mg caffeic acid equivalents/100 mg dry infusion) and presented strong DPPH radical scavenging activity regardless of the composition of the corresponding herbal blends. RP-HPLC-DAD and LC-MS analysis enabled the grouping of the infusions into hydroxycinnamic acid-rich and in flavan-3-ol-rich ones. CRTSEs in herbal tea infusions were found to be significantly more bioaccessible (66.3%–88.6%) than those in the reference saffron infusion (60.9%). The positive role of strong phenolic antioxidants (caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid) on the stability of CRTSEs was also evidenced in model binary mixtures. On the contrary, cinnamic acid, exerting no antioxidant activity, did not have such an effect. Our findings suggest that strong radical scavengers may protect the crocetin sugar esters from oxidation during digestion when present in excess. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Effects of Crocetin Esters and Crocetin from Crocus sativus L. on Aortic Contractility in Rat Genetic Hypertension
Molecules 2015, 20(9), 17570-17584; doi:10.3390/molecules200917570
Received: 7 July 2015 / Revised: 8 September 2015 / Accepted: 10 September 2015 / Published: 22 September 2015
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1347 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Background: Endothelial dysfunction, characterized by an enhancement in vasoconstriction, is clearly associated with hypertension. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) bioactive compounds have been recognized to have hypotensive properties. Recently, we have reported that crocetin exhibits potent vasodilator effects on isolated aortic rings from
[...] Read more.
Background: Endothelial dysfunction, characterized by an enhancement in vasoconstriction, is clearly associated with hypertension. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) bioactive compounds have been recognized to have hypotensive properties. Recently, we have reported that crocetin exhibits potent vasodilator effects on isolated aortic rings from hypertensive rats. In this work, we have aimed to analyze the anticontractile ability of crocetin or crocetin esters pool (crocins) isolated from saffron. Thus, we have studied the effects of saffron carotenoids on endothelium-dependent and -independent regulation of smooth muscle contractility in genetic hypertension. Methods: We have measured the isometric responses of aortic segments with or without endothelium obtained from spontaneously hypertensive rats. The effects of carotenoids were studied by assessing the endothelial modulation of phenylephrine-induced contractions (10−9–10−5 M) in the presence or absence of crocetin or crocins. The role of nitric oxide and prostanoids was analyzed by performing the experiments with L-NAME (NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester) or indomethacin (both 10−5 M), respectively. Results: Crocetin, and to a minor extent crocins, diminished the maximum contractility of phenylephrine in intact rings, while crocins, but not crocetin, increased this contractility in de-endothelizated vessels. In the intact vessels, the effect of crocetin on contractility was unaffected by indomethacin but was abolished by L-NAME. However, crocetin but not crocins, lowered the already increased contractility caused by L-NAME. Conclusions: Saffron compounds, but especially crocetin have endothelium-dependent prorelaxing actions. Crocins have procontractile actions that take place via smooth muscle cell mechanisms. These results suggest that crocetin and crocins activate different mechanisms involved in the vasoconstriction pathway in hypertension. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview Constituents of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) as Potential Candidates for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders and Schizophrenia
Molecules 2016, 21(3), 303; doi:10.3390/molecules21030303
Received: 8 December 2015 / Revised: 10 February 2016 / Accepted: 29 February 2016 / Published: 2 March 2016
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (419 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Anxiety disorders and schizophrenia are common public health issues. The dried stigma of the plant Crocus sativus L., (C. sativus) commonly known as saffron are used in folk medicine for various purposes. Several lines of evidence suggest that C. sativus,
[...] Read more.
Anxiety disorders and schizophrenia are common public health issues. The dried stigma of the plant Crocus sativus L., (C. sativus) commonly known as saffron are used in folk medicine for various purposes. Several lines of evidence suggest that C. sativus, crocins and safranal are implicated in anxiety and schizophrenia. Here, I intend to critically review advances in research of these emerging molecules for the treatment of anxiety and schizophrenia, discuss their advantages over currently used anxiolytics and neuroleptics, as well remaining challenges. Current analysis shows that C. sativus and its components might be a promising class of compounds for the treatment of the above mentioned psychiatric diseases. Full article
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