Within an EU funded research project, the Wageningen team established the precise ester distribution patterns in acetylated sugar beet pectins by enzymatic fingerprinting and modified the ester levels and patterns by using novel esterases.
A new method to determine the methyl- and acetyl esterification of complex pectins was developed by combining partial enzymatic degradation and separation/identification of the diagnostic oligosaccharides by LC-MS. This method paved the way for the development of the new quantitative parameters to described the distribution of both methyl- and acetyl esters over the pectin molecule. These parameters allowed us to distinguish between different sugar beet pectins prepared in different ways having the same esterification levels.
A Bacillus licheniformis pectin acetylesterase able to remove acetyl groups from a specific location (O-3) and a pectin methylesterase from the same origin able to remove methylesters while tolerating acetyl groups were characterized and used to obtain novel pectin preparations.