Microwave-assisted extraction and HPLC-UV-CD determination of (S)-usnic acid in cladonia foliacea

Cavalloro, V., Marrubini, G., Stabile, R., Rossi, D., Linciano, P., Gheza, G., Assini, S., Martino, E., Collina, S.

Molecules, 26 (2), 2021. DOI: 10.3390/molecules26020455

ABSTRACT. During the years, many usnic acid (UA) conjugates have been synthesized to obtain potent endowed with biological properties. Since (S)-UA is less abundant in nature than (R)-enantiomer, it is difficult to source, thus precluding a deeper investigation. Among the lichens producing UA, Cladonia foliacea is a valuable (S)-UA source. In the present work, we report on a rapid HPLC-UV/PAD-CD protocol suitable for the analysis and the identification of the main secondary metabolites present in C. foliacea extract. Best results were achieved using XBridge Phenyl column and acetonitrile and water, which were both added with formic acid as mobile phase in gradient elution. By combining analytical, spectroscopical, and chiroptical analysis, the most abundant analyte was unambiguously identified as (S)-UA. Accordingly, a versatile microwave-assisted extractive (MAE) protocol, assisted by a design of experiment (DoE), to quantitatively recover (S)-UA was set up. The best result in terms of UA extraction yield was obtained using ethanol and heating at 80 °C under microwave irradiation for 5 min. Starting from 100 g of dried C. foliacea, 420 mg of (S)-UA were achieved. Thus, our extraction method resulted in a suitable protocol to produce (S)-UA from C. foliacea for biological and pharmaceutical investigation or commercial purposes.