Switchable Solvent Selective Extraction of Hydrophobic Antioxidants from Synechococcus bigranulatus

Luigi D'Elia, Paola Imbimbo, Davide Liberti, Francesco Bolinesi, Antonino Pollio, Olga Mangoni, Wim Brilman, Giuseppe Olivieri, Daria Maria Monti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrophobic molecules, in particular, carotenoids, have been directly extracted from Synechococcus bigranulatus ACUF680 by means of secondary amine switchable solvent N-ethylbutylamine (EBA) without any other pretreatment. EBA was able to extract hydrophobic molecules from both fresh and frozen biomass at the same extent of the conventional procedure (about 20% of dry biomass). In particular, selective extraction of a zeaxanthin-enriched fraction (green fraction, GF) and a β-carotene-enriched fraction (orange fraction, OF) was obtained. The ratio between zeaxanthin and β-carotene was 4.4 ± 1.5 for GF, 0.07 ± 0.06 for OF, and about 1 for conventional extraction. These fractions showed in vitro antioxidant activity (IC50 values of 0.056 ± 0.013 and 0.024 ± 0.008 mg mL-1 for GF and OF, respectively) and biocompatibility on immortalized cells. Moreover, OF and GF were able to protect cells from oxidative stress, both before and after thermal treatment. Results clearly indicate that EBA is a good candidate to specifically extract β-carotene and zeaxanthin from the wet biomass of S. bigranulatus without affecting their biological activity. Skipping energy-intensive operations to break the cells and using either fresh or frozen biomass may be the driving factors to use EBA switchable solvent on an industrial scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13798-13806
Number of pages9
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2021


  • antioxidants
  • green chemistry
  • microalgae
  • N-ethylbutylamine
  • switchable solvents


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