Chinese Journal of Chromatography ›› 2021, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (6): 599-606.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1123.2020.11005

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Preparation of branched polyethyleneimine-assisted boric acid-functionalized magnetic nanoparticles and its application to selective enrichment of ginsenoside Re

LI Xue1, YAN Zhifeng2, LI Longzhu1, MA Tao1,*(), CHEN Yang1,2,*()   

  1. 1. School of Pharmacy, Bengbu Medical College, Bengbu 233030, China
    2. School of Public Basic Courses, Bengbu Medical College, Bengbu 233030, China
  • Received:2020-11-04 Online:2021-06-08 Published:2021-04-13
  • Contact: MA Tao,CHEN Yang
  • Supported by:
    Natural Science Foundation of Anhui Province(1908085QH349);Key Project of Natural Science Research of University in Anhui Province(KJ2018A1009)


Panax ginseng has a 5000-year-long history as a traditional herbal medicine in Eastern Asia and North America. It is also known as crown jewel in traditional Chinese herbs because of its wide pharmacological properties. Ginsenosides, a class of saponins containing triterpene aglycones and various sugar moieties, are the main active components of ginseng. Considering the low abundance of ginsenosides and other abundant interferences, separation of ginsenosides is essential prior to further analysis. Recently, our group demonstrated the potential of a boronate affinity material for the selective enrichment of ginsenosides. However, conventional boronate affinity materials suffer from an apparent drawback. The binding strength of boronic acids toward cis-diol-containing compounds is low, with dissociation constants (Kd) ranging from 10-1 to 10-3mol/L. Thus, it is necessary to develop boronate affinity materials with high binding strength. In this study, we developed polyethyleneimine (PEI)-functionalized boronate affinity magnetic nanoparticles (BA-MNPs) for the selective enrichment of ginsenosides. Branched PEI was applied as a scaffold to amplify the number of boronic acid moieties, while 3-formylphenylboronic acid, which shows high affinity toward cis-diol-containing molecules, was used as the affinity ligand. In addition, the presence of the multi-glycan structure of ginsenoside leads to higher binding affinity between the PEI-BA-MNPs due to the synergistic multivalent binding effect. Combining with high performance liquid chromatography, a method for the selective analysis of ginsenosides was established. With ginsenoside Re as the representative and under the optimized conditions for magnetic solid-phase extraction, the developed method showed good linearity in the range of 50-800 μg/L, with a linear correlation coefficient (R2) of 0.9681. At different spiked levels (0.1-10 mg/L), the recoveries were in the range of 91.5%-117.3%, and the relative standard deviations (RSDs) ranged from 7.2% to 13.4%. Since the PEI-BA-MNPs exhibited significantly improved binding strength toward ginsenosides, they could extract trace glycoproteins. After enrichment, a 50-fold improvement in the sensitivity was achieved. In addition, the PEI-BA-MNPs maintained at least 72% of their original binding capacity after five consecutive uses. Finally, the developed method was applied to the determination of ginsenoside Re in commercial medicine (Qipi oral liquid). As opposed to the tedious and time-consuming sample preparation in the standard method (Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China, 2015; ChP2015), the present protocol allowed for direct enrichment of the diluted commercial medicine with PEI-BA-MNPs. The magnetic separation made the overall experiment much simpler than the standard ChP2015 method. After washing and elution, the enriched ginsenoside Re was eluted and subjected to HPLC-UV analysis. The results obtained with the developed method (0.27%) were similar to those of ChP2015 (0.31%). We have experimentally demonstrated that PEI-BA-MNPs are ideal affinity sorbents for the selective enrichment of ginsenosides owing to their significant advantages, including high affinity, excellent selectivity, easy manipulation, high binding capacity, and fast binding equilibrium. As many saponins contain sugar side chains, we foresee a promising prospect for the proposed method in real-world applications.

Key words: polyethyleneimine, boronate affinity, magnetic nanoparticles, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), ginsenosides

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