While a good mucoadhesive biopolymer must adhere to a mucus membrane, it must also have a good unloading ability. Here, we demonstrate that the biopolymer pullulan is partially digested by human salivary α-amylase, thus acting as a controlled release system, in which the enzyme triggers an increased release of flavour. Our oral processing simulations have confirmed an increase in the bioavailability of aroma and salt compounds as a function of oral pullulan degradation, although the release kinetics suggest a rather slow process. One of the greatest challenges in flavour science is to retain and rapidly unload the bioactive aroma and taste compounds in the oral cavity before they are ingested. By developing a cationic pullulan analogue we have, in theory, addressed the “loss through ingestion” issue by facilitating the adhesion of the modified polymer to the oral mucus, to retain more of the flavour in the oral cavity. Dimethylaminoethyl pullulan (DMAE-pullulan) was synthesised for the first time, and shown to bind submaxillary mucin, while still retaining its susceptibility to α-amylase hydrolysis. Although DMAE-pullulan is not currently food grade, we suggest that the synthesis of a sustainable food grade alternative would be a next generation mucoadhesive targeted for the oral cavity.
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