As the main substances responsible for immunomodulatory activity, saccharides can be used as quality indicators for Astragalus
root (RA). Saccharide content is commonly determined by ultraviolet spectroscopy, which lacks species specificity and has not been applied in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia. Monosaccharide mapping based on trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) hydrolysis can be used for quantitative analysis of saccharide compositions. In addition, species specificity can be evaluated by analysis of the mapping characteristics. In this study, monosaccharide mapping of soluble saccharides in the cytoplasm and polysaccharides in the cell wall of 24 batches of RA samples with different growth patterns were obtained based on TFA hydrolysis followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Results indicated that the mapping and the molar ratios of saccharide compositions of the cultured and natural RA samples were different for both cytoplasm and cell wall. For example, the molar ratio of mannose and arabinose was more than 3.5:1 in cytoplasm in cultured RA, whereas the ratio was less than 3.5:1 in natural RA. This research not only lays a foundation for screening indicators for RA, but also provided new ways of evaluating the quality of Chinese medicinal materials in which saccharides are the main bioactive substances.
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