What is phycocyanin?
Dec 25, 2020

Phycocyanin Definition:

Phycocyanin is a phytonutrient (a protein pigment) its natural light is blue and is present in Spirulina. Phycocyanin is the responsible component of the blue colour of the blue-green colour of the spirulina microalgae.

The phycocyanin evolved billion years before the green chlorophyll and in fact, is considered to be the precursor of both chlorophyll and haemoglobin. Chlorophyll itself is very similar to haemoglobin.

Its properties are manifold and cross-organism but it is mainly designed and used for its invigorating characteristics of the immune system. It’s such properties and characteristics that cause phycocyanin to be extracted from the spirulina algae and be used as a supplement directed to help and assist the immune system. These characteristics make it very suitable in reinforcing the cell membrane, thus increasing the protection of cells from external attacks, such viruses for example.

Phycocyanin Spirulina

Blue-Green Algae, cyanobacteria and phycocyanin

* Cyanobacteria – a division of microorganisms that are related to the bacteria but are capable of photosynthesis.

* Carotenoids are plant pigments responsible for bright red, yellow and orange hues in many fruits and vegetables.

Phycocyanin is the main blue pigment of the microalga Spirulina and is specifically part of the cyanobacteria (spirulina is cyanobacteria). Cyanobacteria, not just spirulina, are present in almost all environments where there is light, water, carbon dioxide and minerals. They are found in environments known as “extremes”, such as hot water hot springs (up to 70°C), hypersaline or polar environments. Like plants, cyanobacteria perform a process of photosynthesis that releases oxygen. The Phycocyanin, as mentioned above, is part of the spirulina’s photosynthetic system (very similar to what the chlorophyll does) and is used in food. It is the only blue vegetable colouring allowed in Europe.

The Phycocyanin, as mentioned above, is part of the spirulina’s photosynthetic system (very similar to what the chlorophyll does) and is used in food. It is the only blue vegetable colouring allowed in Europe.

Chlorophyll vs. phycocyanin the difference – Compare to other algae and plants using chlorophyll and carotenoids the pigments of the cyanobacteria capture the light photons in a much wider wavelength spectrum. (Phycocyanin is responsible for that difference, it is a pigment, like chlorophyll, that capture light but stretching to the wider wavelength, thus allowing the plant to utilise more light for photosynthesis).

What is phycocyanin good for?

Phycocyanin can fight free radicals and inhibit production of inflammatory signaling molecules, providing impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects ( 6 , 7 , 8 ). Summary Phycocyanin is the main active compound in spirulina. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

1. Removing heavy metals and toxins - Spirulina can bind with heavy metals in the body and help remove them.

2. Source of Protein - As many people nowadays are choosing a vegan or vegetarian diet, this algae can be a great addition to your daily diet routine to boost protein intake.

3. May Aid in Weight Loss - Spirulina contains about 50-70% protein. When taken 30 minutes prior to a meal it can help you feel significantly less hungry therefore, you will feel fuller for longer and less likely to over indulge. Protein is highly soluble in water which means that it can be highly absorbed by your body unlike other protein-rich food sources such as meat.

4. Boosts Energy and Performance - Spirulina is known for its abundance of b vitamins which can boost energy levels. This allows you to improve training and workout results which will enable you to burn more fat. Spirulina's antioxidant content makes it beneficial in decreasing exercise induced oxidation which leads to muscle fatigue and inability to gain muscle.

5. Can help improve digestion and bowel health - As spirulina contains chlorophyll, this helps to regularise the digestive system and promote healthy bacteria in the gut.

What is phycocyanin in spirulina?

Phycocyanin is a pigment-protein complex synthesized by blue-green microalgae such as Arthrospira (Spirulina) platensis. This pigment is used mainly as natural colouring in food industry. Previous studies have demonstrated the potential health benefits of this natural pigment.

Phycocyanin Spirulina benefits

What is the function of phycocyanin in cyanobacteria?

Phycocyanin is produced by many photoautotrophic cyanobacteria.[11] Even if cyanobacteria have large concentrations of phycocyanin, productivity in the ocean is still limited due to light conditions.

Phycocyanin has ecological significance in indicating cyanobacteria bloom. Normally chlorophyll a is used to indicate cyanobacteria numbers, however since it is present in a large number of phytoplankton groups, it is not an ideal measure.[12] For instance a study in the Baltic Sea used phycocyanin as a marker for filamentous cyanobacteria during toxic summer blooms.Some filamentous organisms in the Baltic Sea include Nodularia spumigena and Aphanizomenon flosaquae.

An important cyanobacteria named spirulina (Arthrospira plantensis) is a micro algae that produces C-PC.

There are many different methods of phycocyanin production including photoautotrophic, mixotrophic and heterotrophic and recombinant production.Photoautotrophic production of phycocyanin is where cultures of cyanobacteria are grown in open ponds in either subtropical or tropical regions.[14] Mixotrophic production of algae is where the algae are grown on cultures that have an organic carbon source like glucose.[14] Using mixotrophic production produces higher growth rates and higher biomass compared to simply using a photoautotrophic culture.[14] In the mixotrophic culture, the sum of heterotrophic and autotrophic growth separately was equal to the mixotrophic growth. Heterotrophic production of phycocyanin is not light limited, as per its definition.[14] Galdieria sulphuraria is a unicellular rhodophyte that contains a large amount of C-PC and a small amount of allophycocyanin.[14] G. sulphuraria is an example of the heterotrophic production of C-PC because its habitat is hot, acidic springs and uses a number of carbon sources for growth.[14] Recombinant production of C-PC is another heterotrophic method and involves gene engineering.

Lichen-forming fungi and cyanobacteria often have a symbiotic relationship and thus phycocyanin markers can be used to show the ecological distribution of fungi-associated cyanobacteria. As shown in the highly specific association between Lichina species and Rivularia strains, phycocyanin has enough phylogenetic resolution to resolve the evolutionary history of the group across the northwestern Atlantic Ocean coastal margin.

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