An ionic liquid extraction that preserves the molecular structure of cutin shown by nuclear magnetic resonance

Carlos J.S. Moreira, Artur Bento, Joana Pais, Johann Petit, Rita Escórcio, Vanessa G. Correia, Ângela Pinheiro, Łukasz P. Halinski, Oleksandr O. Mykhaylyk, Christophe Rothan, Cristina Silva Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The biopolyester cutin is ubiquitous in land plants, building the polymeric matrix of the plant’s outermost defensive barrier, the cuticle. Cutin influences many biological processes in planta; however, due to its complexity and highly branched nature, the native structure remains partially unresolved. Our aim was to define an original workflow for the purification and systematic characterization of the molecular structure of cutin. To purify cutin we tested the ionic liquids cholinium hexanoate and 1-butyl-3-methyl-imidazolium acetate. The ensuing polymeric materials are highly esterified, amorphous, and have a typical monomeric composition as demonstrated by solid-state NMR, complemented by spectroscopic, thermal, and x-ray scattering analyses. We performed a systematic study by solution-state NMR of cryogenically milled cutins extracted from tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Micro-Tom’; the wild type and the GLYCEROL-3-PHOSPHATE ACYLTRANSFERASE [GPAT6] and CUTIN SYNTHASE [CUS1] mutants). We resolved their molecular structures, relative distribution of ester aliphatics, free acid end-groups and free hydroxyl groups, differentiating between those derived from primary and secondary esters. Our data demonstrate the existence of free hydroxyl groups in cutin and provide insight into how the mutations affect the esterification arrangement of cutin. The usage of ionic liquids for studying plant polyesters has advantages over conventional approaches, since simple modifications can be applied to recover a biopolymer carrying distinct types/degrees of modifications (e.g. preservation of esters or cuticular polysaccharides), which in combination with the solution NMR methodologies developed here, constitutes essential tools to fingerprint the multifunctionality and the structure of cutin in planta.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-606
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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