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Antitumour Potential of Seamoss Gigartina pistillata Carrageenans against Colorectal Cancer Stem Cell-Enriched Tumourspheres


Gigartina pistillata is a red seaweed common in North Africa and south Europe.

Here, the antitumour potential of G. pistillata carrageenan, with a known variable of the life cycle, the female gametophyte (FG) and tetrasporophyte (T) was evaluated against colorectal cancer stem cell (CSC) -enriched tumourspheres.

FTIR-ATR analysis of G. pistillata carrageenan extracts indicated differences between life cycle phases, being FG a κ/ι hybrid carrageenan and T a ʎ/ξ hybrid.

Both carrageenan extracts presented IC50 values inferior to 1 μg/mL in HT29-derived CSC-enriched tumourspheres, as well as reduced tumoursphere area.

The two extracts were also effective at reducing cellular viability in SW620- and SW480-derived tumourspheres. These results indicate that carrageenans extracted from two G. pistillata life cycle phases have antitumour potential against colorectal cancer stem-like cells, specially the T carrageenan.

Diverse types of carrageenan are acquired from different species of the Gigartinales (Rhodophyta).

Kappa (κ)-carrageenan is mostly acquired by extraction from the tropical seaweed Kappaphycus alvarezii (identified as “cottonii”, in the seaweed commercial area related to the food industry), while iota (ι)-carrageenan is mainly extracted from Eucheuma denticulatum (commercial denomination “spinosum”).

In turn, lambda (ʎ)-carrageenan is acquired from various species from the genera Gigartina and Chondrus (commercial denomination “Irish moss”).

This unique hydrocolloid consists of alternating galactose and 3,6-anhydrogalactose sugars linked by alternating α-1,3 and β-1,4 glycosidic linkages [5,6].

Carrageenans can be classified as ʎ, κ, and ι according to the number of sulphated groups by galactose unit (Figure 1), where number, chemical location, and arrangement of these groups defines carrageenan function and bioactivity power [2,7].

Health-promoting effects in the gut and influence on lipid metabolism of Himanthalia elongata and Gigartina pistillata in hypercholesterolaemic Wistar rats


The intake of Himanthalia elongata and Gigartina pistillata from the Spanish Atlantic coasts was evaluated in Wistar rats. Both seaweed diets showed higher (p < 0.001) faecal excretion.

Colonic fermentation increased (p < 0.001) total short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in Himanthalia-fed rats due to the higher (p < 0.001) levels of acetic, propionic and butyric acids.

The intake of Gigartina increased (p < 0.001) propionic acid and decreased (p < 0.001) butyric acid.

The apparent absorption and true retention of calcium and magnesium enhanced (p < 0.05) with Himanthalia diet, while Gigartina produced no significant effect.

The serum concentration of HDL-C increased (p < 0.01), triglycerides (TGL) decreased (p < 0.001) and bile acids diminished (p < 0.001) in faeces of Himanthalia-fed rats.

The Gigartina diet produced a decrease (p < 0.001) in TGL, total cholesterol (p < 0.01) and LDL-C (p < 0.05) in serum and reduced TGL in liver (p < 0.001).

Thus, both seaweeds improved the lipid profile, and Himanthalia increased SCFA production and the absorption and retention of Ca and Mg as a result of the gut fermentation.

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