Investigating the Bioactive Molecules of Royal Jelly

Feb 12, 2018
Volume 14, Issue 2, pg 6


Photo Credit: Mirko Graul/Shutterstock.comA hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (HILIC–MS/MS) method to separate and quantify the polar bioactive molecules present in royal jelly has been developed by researchers from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in Greece (1).

Secreted by young worker bees, royal jelly has long been lauded for its nutritional and pharmacological properties. The yellowish-white creamy substance has been demonstrated to possess a number of biological properties, such as antimicrobial (2,3), anti-inflammatory (4,5), anti-ageing (6), and anti-cancer (7). It is used in a multitude of products both for consumption and for cosmetic uses, however, the substances responsible for these biological properties have yet to be fully identified.

To understand more about the constituents of royal jelly, researchers have employed a number of separation techniques, however, the majority of the constituents of royal jelly such as amino acids, sugars, and vitamins are small molecules with hydrophilic properties (1), not retained in reversed phase chromatography. This has led to the use of derivatization prior to analysis, which can be both time-consuming and impractical. Instead researchers developed a HILIC method to simplify the analysis of these hydrophilic molecules.

The method described in the paper successfully determined a wide range of small polar bioactive compounds using HILIC–MS/MS and metabolomics.

“The methodology works quite fine,” said Helen Gika from Aristotle University Thessaloniki. “It was developed for a different type of sample; however, it was adapted for royal jelly samples and gave us very useful data,” explained Gika.

Results from the comprehensive analysis of 125 fresh royal jelly samples produced in Northern Greece identified 64 bioactive compounds and quantified 43. The most abundant constituents were found to be the amino acids lysine, proline, and glutamic acid, and from the saccharides examined the most abundant were melezitose and ribose.

The results from this study identified a number of interesting constituents in royal jelly with potential health and commercial uses, however, the origin of the royal jelly could change its applications.

“I believe that the profile of these constituents will be different for royal jelly samples from other geographic areas as these are affected by the food intake of the bees and the [regional] fauna,” explained Gika. This adds a layer of complexity to the analysis of royal jelly, but it could be used to identify the geographical origin of the product in the future and prevent food fraud from occurring.

With this is mind the researchers have already planned further studies in the area. “We have already analyzed honey samples and correlated [the] findings with [the] type of honey and production region,” said Gika. “And we are currently planning to analyze royal jelly with other types of chromatography and mass spectrometry instrumentation. We are aiming to target other constituents of royal jelly, such as more lipophilic compounds.”

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  1. A. Pina et al., J. Chromatogr. A 1531, 53–63 (2018).
  2. S. Fujiwara et al., J. Biol. Chem. 265, 11333–11337 (1990).
  3. L.R. Shen et al., J. Agric. Food. Chem. 58, 2266–2273 (2010).
  4. A. Fujii et al., J. Pharmacol. 53, 331–337 (1990).
  5. K. Kohno et al., Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 68, 138–145 (2004).
  6. M. Kamakura et al., J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. 47, 394–401 (2001).
  7. T. Tamura, A. Fujii, and N. Kuboyama, Folia Pharmcol. Jpn. 89, 73–80 (1987).

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