Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of C-phycocyanin from blue-green algae

Inflamm Res. 1998 Jan;47(1):36-41. doi: 10.1007/s000110050256.


Objective: Phycocyanin is a pigment found in blue-green algae which contains open chain tetrapyrroles with possible scavenging properties. We have studied its antioxidant properties.

Materials and methods: Phycocyanin was evaluated as a putative antioxidant in vitro by using: a) luminol-enhanced chemiluminescence (LCL) generated by three different radical species (O2-, OH., RO.) and by zymosan activated human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNLs), b) deoxyribose assay and c) inhibition of liver microsomal lipid peroxidation induced by Fe+2-ascorbic acid. The antioxidant activity was also assayed in vivo in glucose oxidase (GO)-induced inflammation in mouse paw.

Results: The results indicated that phycocyanin is able to scavenge OH. (IC50 = 0.91 mg/mL) and RO. (IC50 = 76 microg/mL) radicals, with activity equivalent to 0.125 mg/mL of dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO) and 0.038 microg/mL of trolox, specific scavengers of those radicals respectively. In the deoxyribose assay the second-order rate constant was 3.56 x 10(11) M(-1) S(-1), similar to that obtained for some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Phycocyanin also inhibits liver microsomal lipid peroxidation (IC50 = 12 mg/mL), the CL response of PMNLs (p < 0.05) as well as the edema index in GO-induced inflammation in mouse paw (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: To our knowledge this is the first report of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of c-phycocyanin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal*
  • Antioxidants*
  • Cyanobacteria / chemistry*
  • Deoxyribose / metabolism
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals
  • Glucose Oxidase
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyl Radical / metabolism
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Phycocyanin / therapeutic use*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Zymosan / pharmacology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals
  • Phycocyanin
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • Deoxyribose
  • Zymosan
  • Glucose Oxidase