Insights into phenolic compounds from microalgae: structural variety and complex beneficial activities from health to nutraceutics

Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2021 Mar;41(2):155-171. doi: 10.1080/07388551.2021.1874284. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


Phenolic compounds (PCs) are a family of secondary metabolites with recognized biological activities making them attractive for the biomedical "red" biotechnology. The development of the eco-sustainable production of natural bioactive metabolites requires using easy cultivable organisms, such as microalgae, which represents one of the most promising sources for biotechnological applications. Microalgae are photosynthetic organisms inhabiting aquatic systems, displaying high levels of biological and functional diversities, and are well-known producers of fatty acids and carotenoids. They are also rich in other families of bioactive molecules e.g. phenolic compounds. Microalgal PCs however are less investigated than other molecular components. This study aims to provide a state-of-art picture of the actual knowledge on microalgal phenolic compounds, reviewing information on the PC content variety and chemodiversity in microalgae, their environmental modulation, and we aim to report discuss data on PC biosynthetic pathways. We report the challenges of promoting microalgae as a relevant source of natural PCs, further enhancing the interests of microalgal "biofactories" for biotechnological applications (i.e. nutraceutical, pharmacological, or cosmeceutical products).

Keywords: Polyphenols; biotechnology; chemodiversity; flavonoids; microalgae; nutraceuticals.

MeSH terms

  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Biotechnology
  • Carotenoids / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Microalgae* / metabolism


  • Carotenoids