Until now, the red algae Gelidium sesquipedale has been primarily exploited for agar production, leaving an undervalued biomass. In this work, the use of eco-friendly approaches employing ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE) and green solvents was investigated to valorize the algal minor compounds. The green methods used herein showed an attractive alternative to efficiently extract a broad spectrum of bioactive compounds in short extraction times (15 to 30 min vs. 8 h of the conventional method). Using the best UAE conditions, red seaweed extracts were characterized in terms of total phenolics (189.3 ± 11.7 mg GAE/100 g dw), flavonoids (310.7 ± 9.7 mg QE/100 g dw), mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) (Σ MAAs = 1271 mg/100 g dw), and phycobiliproteins (72.4 ± 0.5 mg/100 g dw). Additionally, produced algal extracts exhibited interesting antioxidant and anti-enzymatic activities for potential applications in medical and/or cosmetic products. Thus, this study provides the basis to reach a superior valorization of algal biomass by using alternative methods to extract biologically active compounds following eco-friendly approaches. Moreover, the strategies developed not only open new possibilities for the commercial use of Gelidium sesquipedale, but also for the valorization of different algae species since the techniques established can be easily adapted.
Keywords: bioactive compounds; eco-friendly methods; green extraction; macroalgae; mycosporine-like amino acids; phycobiliproteins; ultrasound-assisted extraction.