Brazilian green propolis is a complex mixture of natural compounds that is difficult to analyze and standardize; as a result, controlling its quality is challenging. In this study, we used the positive and negative modes of ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionization quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometry in conjunction with high-performance liquid chromatography for the identification and characterization of seven phenolic acid compounds in Brazilian green propolis. The optimal operating conditions for the electrospray ionization source were capillary voltage of 3500 V and drying and sheath gas temperatures of 320 °C and 350 °C, respectively. Drying and sheath gas flows were set to 8 L/min and 11 L/min, respectively. Brazilian green propolis was separated using the HPLC method, with chromatograms for samples and standards measured at 310 nm. UPLC-ESI-QTOF-MS was used to identify the following phenolic compounds: Chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isochlorogenic acid A, isochlorogenic acid B, isochlorogenic acid C, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), and artepillin C. Using a methodologically validated HPLC method, the seven identified phenolic acids were then quantified among different Brazilian green propolis. Results indicated that there were no significant differences in the content of a given phenolic acid across different Brazilian green propolis samples, owing to the same plant resin sources for each sample. Isochlorogenic acid B had the lowest content (0.08 ± 0.04) across all tested Brazilian green propolis samples, while the artepillin C levels were the highest (2.48 ± 0.94). The total phenolic acid content across Brazilian green propolis samples ranged from 2.14–9.32%. Notably, artepillin C quantification is an important factor in determining the quality index of Brazilian green propolis; importantly, it has potential as a chemical marker for the development of better quality control methods for Brazilian green propolis.
3. Experimental Section
3.1. Reagents and Chemicals
Chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isochlorogenic acid A, isochlorogenic acid B, isochlorogenic acid C, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (all used as standard) were from Chengdu Alfa Biotechnology Co., Ltd. (Chengdu, Sichuan, China). Artepillin C (used as standard) was purchased from Richmond, VA (USA). Methanol (HPLC grade) and ethanol (95%) were from Merck Chemicals. Formic acid (95%) was from Sigma-Aldrich (Milan, Italy).