Genetic diversity of citrus includes intrageneric hybrids, cultivars arising from cross-pollination and/or somatic mutations with particular biochemical compounds such as sugar, acids and secondary metabolite composition.
Secondary metabolite profiles of juices from 12 commercial varieties grouped into blonde and navel types, mandarins, lemons and grapefruits were analyzed by LC/ESI-QTOF-MS. HCA on metabolite profiling data revealed the existence of natural groups demarcating fruit types and varieties associated to specific composition patterns. The unbiased classification provided by HCA was used for PLS-DA to find the potential variables (mass chromatographic features) responsible for the classification. Abscisic acid and derivatives, several flavonoids and limonoids were identified by analysis of mass spectra. To facilitate interpretation, metabolites were represented as flow charts depicting biosynthetic pathways. Mandarins ‘Fortune’ and ‘Hernandina’ along with oranges showed higher ABA contents and ABA degradation products were present as glycosylated forms in oranges and certain mandarins. All orange and grapefruit varieties showed high limonin contents and its glycosylated form, that was only absent in lemons. The rest of identified limonoids were highly abundant in oranges. Particularly, Sucrenya cultivar showed a specific accumulation of obacunone and limonoate A-ring lactone. Polymethoxylated flavanones (tangeritin and isomers) were absolutely absent from lemons and grapefruits whereas kaempferol deoxyhexose hexose isomer #2, naringin and neohesperidin were only present in these cultivars.
Analysis of relative metabolite build-up in closely-related genotypes allowed the efficient demarcation of cultivars and suggested the existence of genotype-specific regulatory mechanisms underlying the differential metabolite accumulation.