Anticancer effect of the water extract of a commercial Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) product on the human lung cancer A549 cell line

Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Oct;106:292-302. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.06.116. Epub 2018 Jun 28.


Spirulina is a well-described and popular dietary supplement derived from Arthrospira algae. In the present study, the anticancer potential of a water extract of a commercial Spirulina product (SE) against the human non-small-cell lung carcinoma A549 cell line was evaluated. After qualitative analysis, we investigated the effect of SE on cell viability, proliferation, and morphology. Furthermore, the influence of SE on regulation of the cell cycle, induction of apoptosis in lung cancer cells, and expression of cell cycle/apoptosis-related proteins was evaluated. Additionally, we examined the cytotoxic effect of SE on normal human skin fibroblasts (HSF). Our studies revealed that SE significantly reduced cancer cell viability and proliferation, which was accompanied by cell cycle inhibition in the G1 phase, induction of apoptosis, and prominent morphological changes. Moreover, we detected no cytotoxic effect of the tested Spirulina extract on normal skin fibroblasts. Our molecular studies demonstrated that SE reduced the phosphorylation of Akt and Rb proteins, reduced the expression of cyclin D1 and CDK4, and increased the Bax to Bcl-2 ratio in the A549 cells. In conclusion, the results obtained provide evidence of the anti-cancer activity of the commercial Spirulina product against lung cancer cells and strongly support the knowledge of the chemopreventive properties of Spirulina.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Cell cycle; Lung cancer; Proliferation; Spirulina; Viability.

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • G1 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Necrosis
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Solvents / chemistry*
  • Spirulina / chemistry*
  • Water / chemistry*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • BAX protein, human
  • BCL2 protein, human
  • CCND1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Solvents
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Water
  • Cyclin D1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • CDK4 protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4