Formation and hydrolysis of triacylglycerol and sterols epoxides: role of unsaturated triacylglycerol peroxyl radicals

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Epoxidation of unsaturated pure triacylglycerols (TAGs), cholesterol, and phytosterols was investigated using air and 18O2 oxidation experiments. Oxidized lipids were analyzed using both triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (MS), ion-trap MS in the direct infusion mode, and triple quadrupole MS in tandem with a liquid chromatograph (LC-MS/MS). Pure 1,2-distearoyl-3-oleoyl-glycerol (SSO) samples were heated in sealed vials under air or 18O2 atmosphere at 160°C for 1 h. LC-MS/MS analysis of 18O-labeled oxidized TAGs revealed that hydroperoxides and epoxide TAGs are formed mainly during this first step. Then, oxidized TAGs were incubated under an inert atmosphere, separately with 1,2-dipalmitoyl-3-oleoyl-glycerol (PPO) at 160°C for 90 min, and with cholesterol and stigmasterol at 100°C for 10 min. Subsequent LC-MS/MS analysis revealed the occurrence of epoxidation products of PPO, cholesterol, and sitosterol. Therefore, we showed the epoxidation of unsaturated lipids proceeds readily in contact with hydroperoxide TAGs, in the absence of molecular oxygen. Dual oxidation experiments using both air and 18O2 allowed investigation of oxygen atom transfer during epoxidation of lipids. Moreover, the experimental oxidation design presented can be used to study fragmentation pathways, as illustrated for 5,6-epoxycholesterol (CE) on both triple quadrupole and ion-trap MS. We report for the first time the occurrence of 5,6;22,23-diepoxystigmasterol (StDE) and 5,6;22,23-diepoxybrassicasterol (BDE) in autoxidized vegetable oils. Additionally, acid-catalyzed hydrolysis of epoxidized lipids, with emphasis on phytosterol polyol formation, was investigated using a model gastric medium. For confirmation, almost all identified products were synthesized and characterized by MS.

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