Identification of candidate amino acids involved in the formation of pink-red pigments in onion (Allium cepa L.) juice and separation by HPLC. Academic Article uri icon


  • The formation of pink-red pigments ("pinking") by various amino acids was investigated by reacting amino acids with compounds present in onion juice. The unknown pink-red pigments were generated and separated using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and a diode array detector (DAD) in the range of 200 to 700 nm. To generate pink-red pigments, we developed several reaction systems using garlic alliinase, purified 1-propenyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide (1-PeCSO), onion thiosulfinate, natural onion juice, and 21 free amino acids. The compound 1-PeCSO was a key compound associated with pinking in the presence of both the alliinase and amino acids. Numerous naturally occurring pink-red pigments were detected and separated from pink onion juice using the HPLC-DAD system at 515 nm. Most free amino acids, with the exceptions of histidine, serine, and cysteine, formed various pink-red pigments when reacted with onion thiosulfinate. This observation indicated that onion pinking is caused not by a single pigment, but by many. Furthermore, more than one color compound could be produced from a single amino acid; this explains, in part, why there were many pink-red compound peaks in the chromatogram of discolored natural onion juice. We presumed that the complexity of the pink-red pigments was due to the involvement of more than 21 natural amino acids as well as several derivatives of the color products produced from each amino acid. We observed that the pinking process in onion juice is very similar to that of the greening process in crushed garlic, emphasizing that both thiosulfinate from flavor precursors and free amino acids are absolutely required for the discoloration.

published proceedings

  • J Food Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, E. J., Yoo, K. S., & Patil, B. S.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Eun Jin||Yoo, Kil Sun||Patil, Bhimanagouda S

publication date

  • October 2010