Organic acids are defined as organic compounds with acidic properties. Because these acids are organic, their structure must contain a carbon atom. Carboxylic acid, with the molecular formula as RCOOH, is one of the most common organic acids. Sulfonic acid and alcohol are also organic acids. Generally speaking, organic acids are weak acids, which can only partially ionize in solution. Organic acids are widely used in food industry. For example, citric acid is widely used in sodas and canned tomatoes and acetic acid is well known organic acid used for making vinegar. Organic acids are also as additives in pharmaceutical production, leather tanning.
Organic acids are the result of incomplete oxidation of photosynthetic assimilates. They can go through terminal oxidation and yield CO2 and H2O. Their carbon skeletons can also be used for the raw materials of biosynthesis of carbohydrates or amino acids. Because organic acids are the intermediate products of complete oxidation, they paly an important role in redox balance maintenance, generation and consumption of ATP, and sustaining protonic and ionic gradients on membranes.
Organic acids play a vital role in the primary metabolism of plant. They are involved in the essential physiological pathways such as TAC cycle, glyoxylate cycle, and C3-, C4- and CAM-photosynthesis. Organic acids can be converted to each other in many plant tissues and they can also be the degradation products of more reduced compounds. Organic acids like lactate, fumarate, malate, and citrate, takes part in many vital cellular processes, pH regulation, stomatal function, aluminum tolerance, phosphorous acquisition, temporary carbon storage and communication with microorganisms. Besides regulating the primary and specialized metabolic pathways, organic acids also involve with the regulation of the development and growth of plant. For example, they act as signaling molecules, as modulators for many key enzymes or as regulators of gene expression.
Organic acids widely exist in foods and beverages, and partially or totally contribute to the taste and aroma of the product. Organic acids can not only being generated in foods spontaneously, but also produced during food processing such as alcoholic fermentation. The profiling as well as their quantification of organic acids in fruits, cheeses, and various beverages assists in determining the quality and authenticity of the product.
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