Isolation and Identification of the First C-17 Limonin Epimer, Epilimonin

Limonoids are a family of highly oxygenated triterpenoid secondary metabolites found in significant quantities in <i>Citrus</i> and reported to possess multiple health promoting properties. This is the first known report of the isolation and characterization of an epimer of limonin. The epimer, named epilimonin, was isolated by fractional crystallization from a mixture consisting mainly of limonin and epilimonin obtained as byproduct from our efforts to isolate limonin glucoside. Side-by-side comparison of the MS, IR, and <sup>1</sup>H and <sup>13</sup>C NMR data of epilimonin and limonin lead to the assignment of C-17 as the site of epimerization. An earlier study on the bioavailability of limonin glucoside in humans had indicated that limonin glucoside was metabolized to give limonin and a second limonin metabolite. Results from analyzing epilimonin by the same chromatographic conditions used for the bioavailability study suggest that the second limonin metabolite was epilimonin.