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Pectic substance is a generic name used for the compounds that are acted upon by the pectinolytic enzymes. They are high molecular weight, negatively charged, acidic, complex glycosidic macromolecules (polysaccharides) that are present in the plant kingdom. They are present as the major components of middle lamella between the cells in the form of calcium pectate and magnesium pectate.

Pectic substances mainly consist of galacturonans and rhamnogalacturonans in which the C-6 carbon of galactate is oxidized to a carboxyl group, the arabinans and the arabinogalactans. These substances are a group of complex colloidal polymeric materials, composed largely of a backbone of anhydrogalacturonic acid units.

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The American Chemical Society classified pectic substances into four main types as follows(1)

(I)  Protopectin: is the water insoluble pectic substance present in intact tissue. Protopectin on restricted hydrolysis yields pectin or pectic acids.

(II) Pectic acid: is the soluble polymer of galacturonans that contains negligible amount of methoxyl groups. Normal or acid salts of pectic acid are called pectates.

(III) Pectinic acids: is the polygalacturonan chain that contains >0 and <75% methylated galacturonate units. Normal or acid salts of pectinic acid are referred to as pectinates.

(IV) Pectin (Polymethyl galacturonate): is the polymeric material in which, at least, 75% of the carboxyl groups of the galacturonate units are esterified with methanol. It confers rigidity on cell wall when it is bound to cellulose in the cell wall.

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Last update: 05-July-2007