The Sea Urchin Arbacia lixula: A Novel Natural Source of Astaxanthin

Mar Drugs. 2017 Jun 21;15(6):187. doi: 10.3390/md15060187.


Several echinoderms, including sea urchins, are valuable sources of bioactive compounds but their nutraceutical potential is largely unexplored. In fact, the gonads of some sea urchin species contain antioxidants including carotenoids and polyhydroxylated naphthoquinones (PHNQ's), such as echinochrome A. Astaxanthin is known to have particular bioactivity for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. This carotenoid is produced by microalgae, while several marine invertebrates can bioaccumulate or synthetize it from metabolic precursors. We determined the carotenoid content and analyzed the bioactivity potential of non-harvested Atlantic-Mediterranean sea urchin Arbacia lixula. The comparison of methanol crude extracts obtained from eggs of farmed and wild specimens revealed a higher bioactivity in farmed individuals fed with a customized fodder. HPLC-analysis revealed a high concentration of astaxanthin (27.0 μg/mg), which was the only pigment observed. This study highlights the potential of farmed A. lixula as a new source of the active stereoisomer of astaxanthin.

Keywords: DPPH assay; bioactive compounds; carotenoids; dietary supplement; echinoderms; harvesting.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Arbacia / chemistry*
  • Carotenoids / chemistry
  • Gonads / chemistry
  • Sea Urchins / chemistry*
  • Xanthophylls / chemistry


  • Xanthophylls
  • Carotenoids
  • astaxanthine