Growth-inhibitory effects of the astaxanthin-rich alga Haematococcus pluvialis in human colon cancer cells

Cancer Lett. 2009 Sep 28;283(1):108-17. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2009.03.031. Epub 2009 May 6.


The growth-inhibitory effects of the astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis were studied in HCT-116 colon cancer cells. H. pluvialis extract (5-25 microg/ml) inhibited cell growth in a dose- and time-dependent manner, by arresting cell cycle progression and by promoting apoptosis. At 25 microg/ml of H. pluvialis extract, an increase of p53, p21(WAF-1/CIP-1) and p27 expression (220%, 160%, 250%, respectively) was observed, concomitantly with a decrease of cyclin D1 expression (58%) and AKT phosphorylation (21%). Moreover, the extract, at the same concentration, strongly up-regulated apoptosis by modifying the ratio of Bax/Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL, and increased the phosphorylation of p38, JNK, and ERK1/2 by 160%, 242%, 280%, respectively. Growth-inhibitory effects by H. pluvialis were also observed in HT-29, LS-174, WiDr, SW-480 cells. This study suggests that H. pluvialis may protect from colon cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Eukaryota* / chemistry
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Xanthophylls / isolation & purification
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology


  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine