Identifying and annotating the molecular composition of individual foods will improve scientific understanding of how foods impact human health and how much variation exists in the molecular composition of foods of the same species. The complexity of this task includes distinct varieties and variations in natural occurring pigments of foods. Lipidomics, a sub-field of metabolomics, has emerged as an effective tool to help decipher the molecular composition of foods. For this proof-of-principle research, we determined the lipidomic profiles of green, yellow and red bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry and a novel tool for automated annotation of compounds following database searches. Among 23 samples analyzed from 6 peppers (2 green, 1 yellow, and 3 red), over 8000 lipid compounds were detected with 315 compounds (106 annotated) found in all three colors. Assessments of relationships between these compounds and pepper color, using linear mixed effects regression and false discovery rate (<0.05) statistical adjustment, revealed 11 compounds differing by color. The compound most strongly associated with color was the carotenoid, β-cryptoxanthin (p-value = 7.4 × 10−5; FDR adjusted p-value = 0.0080). These results support lipidomics as a viable analytical technique to identify molecular compounds that can be used for unique characterization of foods.
- Bell pepper
- Capsicum annuum
- Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC/MS)