A study of the biochemical development and toxicology of the seed of Santalum spicatum.
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The seed of Santalum spicatum is rich in a fixed oil (59% by weight), which is characterised by a high percentage of acetylenic, ethylenic ximenynic acid (35% of total fatty acids). A number of important aspects of the seed fixed oil, its composition in developing seeds, its triacylglycerols molecular species in the oil, the nutrition and toxicity of the oil feeding, and the possible bioactivity of ximenynic acid in mice were investigated.The identification of cis and trans isomers of ximenynic acid in the seed oil, and the metabolite of ximenynic acid in mouse liver lipid fractions were achieved using 2-amino-2-methyl-1-propanol to form 2-substituted 4,4-dimethyloxazoline derivatives, which were analysed by gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection.Changes in proximate and fatty acid composition were investigated in developing seed collected weekly from about seven days after flowering to maturity. It was determined that moisture and carbohydrate contents decreased significantly during the development sequence, while fixed oil content increased from 0.3% to 50% (by weight) with seed development. A corresponding increase in the proportions of both oleic and ximenynic acids occurred suggesting a precursor/product relationship. Mature seed collected from different locations in Western Australia showed minor differences in characteristics and lipid composition, which may have been influenced by geographical origin and harvesting year of samples.The lipid components from the seed oil were separated using thin-layer chromatography and the individual triglyceride bands were characterised by high performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography using flame ionisation and mass spectrometric detection after removal from the plate. The triximenynin (trisantalbin) band showed no other contaminating fatty acids and was obtained in a relatively pure state.A nutrition and toxicity study was performed by feeding a semi-synthetic diet containing sandalwood seed oil to a level of 15% of total energy content to a group of mice for one month and another group for two months. The most significant effect of sandalwood seed oil ingestion when compared with a standard lab diet (5% fat, by weight) and a canola oil-enriched diet (15% fat, by weight) was an apparent reduction in body weight gain, which may be the effect of ximenynic acid as a growth retardant. Serum aspartate aminotransferase levels were determined in the mice as an indicator of hepatotoxicity. These levels were higher in mice fed the sandalwood seed oil diet than those fed the standard lab diet, suggesting that ximenynic acid may affect liver-specific enzyme activity. Analysis of the total lipid fatty acids of various tissues and organs of mice showed only a low incorporation of ximenynic acid into the general tissues (0.3-3% by weight), and its absence in the brain.This study suggests a few health benefits from consumption of large quantities of sandalwood seed oil in the diet. These include a low lipid content in blood, heart, muscle, increase in the 16:1/16:0 and 18:1/18:0 ratios, production of increased levels of 18:1 (n-9) and docosahexaenoic acid, and decreased levels of arachidonic acid in certain tissues. There were no specific pathological, morphological or mortality changes observed in the mice.Sandalwood seed may be both a food and a medicine.
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