Litchi leaf has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine due to its unique pharmacological actions. There are more than two hundred of cultivars distributed over the world. Application of polysaccharide structural characteristics to analyse the similarity between cultivars is a novel and interesting attempt. In this work, litchi leaves (cv. ‘Nandao seedless fruit’, ‘Dingxiang’ and ‘Ziniangxi’) were selected to extract water-soluble polysaccharides (LLPs I and II). LLP I consisted of Ara, Rha, Gal and Glc, while LLP II was of Ara, Rha and Gal. However, the relative molar percentages of each monosaccharide between cultivars were different. The glycosidic linkages were determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Gal had two linkages of →3)-Gal-(1→ and →6)-Gal-(1 →. Ara and Rha were found to be linked as →5)-Ara-(1→ and →3)-Rha-(1→, while Glc appeared to be Glc-(1→ and →6)-Glc-(1 →. LLPs I and II belonged to type II arabinogalactans. The hierarchical clustering analysis of structural characteristics of LLPs I and II showed that ‘Nandao seedless fruit’ and ‘Dingxiang’ had a good similarity. This method was an efficient way to analyse the similarity between cultivars of litchi leaf.
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