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Cork Suberin Molecular Structure: Stereochemistry of the C18 Epoxy and vic-Diol ω‑Hydroxyacids and α,ω-Diacids Analyzed by NMR

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journal contribution
posted on 24.07.2013, 00:00 by Sara Santos, Vanessa Cabral, José Graça
Suberin is the biopolyester that protects the secondary tissues of plants against environmental variability and aggressions. Cork suberin is composed mostly of C18 ω-hydroxyacids and α,ω-diacids, 9,10-substituted with an unsaturation, an epoxide ring, or a vic-diol group. Although determinant for suberin macromolecular structure, the stereochemistry of these monomers is poorly studied, sometimes with contradictory results. An NMR technique was used here to assign the configuration of the 9,10-epoxy and 9,10-diol groups in C18 suberin acids, comparing the chemical shifts of diagnostic 1H and 13C signals with the ones of model compounds, before and after conversion of the vic-diol group into benzylidene acetal derivatives. The relative configuration was proved to be cis in the C18 9,10-epoxy and threo in the C18 9,10-diol suberin acids. These monomers were present in suberin probably as racemic mixtures, as shown by polarimetry. The revealed stereochemistry allows the suberin macromolecule to be built as an ordered array of midchain kinked C18 acids, reinforced by intramolecular hydrogen bonding.