Fucoidan Extracted from the New Zealand Undaria pinnatifida-Physicochemical Comparison against Five Other Fucoidans: Unique Low Molecular Weight Fraction Bioactivity in Breast Cancer Cell Lines

Mar Drugs. 2018 Nov 22;16(12):461. doi: 10.3390/md16120461.


Fucoidan, the complex fucose-containing sulphated polysaccharide varies considerably in structure, composition, and bioactivity, depending on the source, species, seasonality, and extraction method. In this study, we examined five fucoidans extracted from the same seaweed species Undaria pinnatifida but from different geological locations, and compared them to the laboratory-grade fucoidan from Sigma (S). The five products differed in molecular composition. The amount of over 2 kDa low molecular weight fraction (LMWF) of the New Zealand crude fucoidan (S1) was larger than that of S, and this fraction was unique, compared to the other four fucoidans. The difference of molecular compositions between S and S1 explained our previous observation that S1 exhibited different anticancer profile in some cancer cell lines, compared with S. Since we observed this unique LMWF, we compared the cytotoxic effects of a LMWF and a high molecular weight fucoidan (HMWF) in two breast cancer cell lines-MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231. Results indicated that the molecular weight is a critical factor in determining the anti-cancer potential of fucoidan, from the New Zealand U. pinnatifida, as the LMWF exhibited a dose-dependent inhibition on the proliferation of breast cancer cells, significantly better than the HMWF, in both cell lines. A time-dependent inhibition was only observed in the MCF-7. Induction of caspase-dependent apoptosis was observed in the MDA-MB-231 cells, through the intrinsic apoptosis pathway alone, or with the extrinsic pathway. LMWF stimulated a dose-dependent NOS activation in the MDA-MB-231 cells. In conclusion, the fucoidan extracted from the New Zealand U. pinnatifida contains a unique LMWF, which could effectively inhibit the growth of breast cancer cell lines. Therefore, the LMWF from New Zealand U. pinnatifida could be used as a supplement cancer treatment.

Keywords: breast cancer cell lines; chemical composition; fucoidan; molecular weight; nutraceutical.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Molecular Structure
  • Molecular Weight
  • New Zealand
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / isolation & purification
  • Polysaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Seaweed / chemistry*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Undaria / chemistry*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Polysaccharides
  • fucoidan