Deep supercooling xylem parenchyma cells of katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) contain flavonol glycosides exhibiting high anti-ice nucleation activity


S. Fujikawa. Fax: +81 011 706 3859; e-mail:


Xylem parenchyma cells (XPCs) of boreal hardwood species adapt to sub-freezing temperatures by deep supercooling to maintain a liquid state of intracellular water near −40 °C. Our previous study found that crude xylem extracts from such tree species exhibited anti-ice nucleation activity to promote supercooling of water. In the present study, thus, we attempted to identify the causative substances of supercooling. Crude xylem extracts from katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), of which XPCs exhibited deep supercooling to −40 °C, were prepared by methanol extraction. The crude extracts were purified by liquid–liquid extraction and then by silica gel column chromatography. Although all the fractions obtained after each purification step exhibited some levels of anti-ice nucleation activity, only the most active fraction was retained to proceed to the subsequent level of purification. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis of a fraction with the highest level of activity revealed four peaks with high levels of anti-ice nucleation activity in the range of 2.8–9.0 °C. Ultraviolet (UV), mass and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra revealed that these four peaks corresponded to quercetin-3-O-β-glucoside (Q3G), kaempferol-7-O-β-glucoside (K7G), 8-methoxykaempferol-3-O-β-glucoside (8MK3G) and kaempferol-3-O-β-glucoside (K3G). Microscopic observations confirmed the presence of flavonoids in cytoplasms of XPCs. These results suggest that diverse kinds of anti-ice nucleation substances, including flavonol glycosides, may have important roles in deep supercooling of XPCs.