Phycocyanin extract from blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) induced autophagic cell death in pancreatic cancer cell lines

Phycocyanin is a pigment-protein complex produced by certain cyanobacteria. It is composed of two protein subunits α-phycocyanin (18.4 kDa) and β-phycocyanin (21.3 kDa). As its name suggests phycocyanin in solution produces a blue-green colour (figure 1). Stable isolation of phycocyanin from Spirulina platensis has been achieved with a high pressure extraction process [1].

 

extracted_phycocyanin
Figure 1: Phycocyanin pigment extracted from Microcystis aeruginosa. The pigments light blue colour is evident. Credit: CyanoLakes. No changes were made. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC-BY-SA-4.0).

 

Using phycocyanin extracted from this source a recent study demonstrated that it induced cell death in pancreatic cancer cell lines through a mechanism involving autophagy [2]. Interestingly on a panel of non-tumour cell lines phycocyanin had little effect. When beclin-1 was ablated by siRNA, which normally blocks autophagy, cell viability was rescued in phycocyanin treated pancreatic cancer cells [2].

 

In other models phycocyanin raised reactive oxygen species levels associated with apoptosis [3]. KRAS mutant cancers such as pancreatic are known to be sensitive to redox shifts so it is of interest as to whether phycocyanin has a direct effect on the redox balance of pancreatic cancer cells.  

 

Refs

 

  1. Seo YC, Choi WS, Park JH, Park JO, Jung KH, Lee HY. Stable isolation of phycocyanin from Spirulina platensis associated with high-pressure extraction process. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Jan 16;14(1):1778-87. doi: 10.3390/ijms14011778. PubMed PMID: 23325046.
  2. Liao G, Gao B, Gao Y, Yang X, Cheng X, Ou Y. Phycocyanin Inhibits Tumorigenic Potential of Pancreatic Cancer Cells: Role of Apoptosis and Autophagy. Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 3;6:34564. doi: 10.1038/srep34564. PubMed PMID: 27694919.
  3. Pardhasaradhi BV, Ali AM, Kumari AL, Reddanna P, Khar A. Phycocyanin-mediated apoptosis in AK-5 tumor cells involves down-regulation of Bcl-2 and generation of ROS. Mol Cancer Ther. 2003 Nov;2(11):1165-70. PubMed PMID: 14617790.
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