APC (allophycocyanin) is widely used for fluorescence tagging and may be a promising antioxidant agent for use within the food and pharmaceutical industries. Chromophore attachment to apo-ApcA (apo-APC alpha-subunit without chromophore) can be autocatalysed both in vitro and in vivo. In the present study, a plasmid containing genes of apo-ApcA and chromophore synthetases [HO1 (ferredoxin-dependent haem oxygenase) and PcyA (phycocyanobilin:ferredoxin oxidoreductase)] was constructed and expressed in Escherichia coli. The results show that holo-ApcA (APC alpha-subunit with chromophore) can be synthesized by autocatalysis in E. coli. Recombinant holo-ApcA showed the same spectral and fluorescent properties as PC (phycocyanin) and could serve as a good substitute for native PC for fluorescent tagging. Moreover, recombinant ApcA can inhibit hydroxyl and peroxyl radicals more strongly than holo-ApcA and native APC. The EC(50) values were 296.4+/-22.4 microg/ml against hydroxyl radicals and 38.5+/-2.6 microg/ml against peroxyl radicals.