A thermophilic C-phycocyanin with unprecedented biophysical and biochemical properties

Giarita Ferraro, Paola Imbimbo, Angela Marseglia, Anna Illiano, Carolina Fontanarosa, Angela Amoresano, Giuseppe Olivieri, Antonino Pollio, Daria Maria Monti, Antonello Merlino*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


C-phycoyanins are abundant light-harvesting pigments which have an important role in the energy transfer cascade of photosystems in prokaryotic cyanobacteria and eukaryotic red algae. These proteins have important biotechnological applications, since they can be used in food, cosmetics, nutraceutical, pharmaceutical industries and in biomedical research. Here, C-phycocyanin from the extremophilic red alga Galdieria phlegrea (GpPC) has been purified and characterized from a biophysical point of view by SDS-PAGE, mass spectrometry, UV–Vis absorption spectroscopy, circular dichroism and intrinsic fluorescence. Stability against pH variations, addition of the oxidizing agent hydrogen peroxide and the effects of temperature have been also investigated, together with its in cell antioxidant potential and antitumor activity. GpPC is stable under different pHs and unfolds at a temperature higher than 80 °C within the pH range 5.0–7.0. Its fluorescence spectra present a maximum at 650 nm, when excited at 589 nm. The protein exerts interesting in cell antioxidant properties even after high temperature treatments, like the pasteurization process, and is cytotoxic for A431 and SVT2 cancer cells, whereas it is not toxic for non-malignant cells. Our results assist in the development of C-phycocyanin as a multitasking protein, to be used in the food industry, as antioxidant and anticancer agent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-51
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Macromolecules
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Anticancer proteins
  • Antioxidant agents, thermophilic proteins
  • C-phycocyanin
  • Protein stability


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