European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 48, Issue 7, pp 387–394 | Cite as

Hypocholesterolemic effect of Nostoc commune var. sphaeroides Kützing, an edible blue-green alga

  • Heather E. Rasmussen
  • Kara R. Blobaum
  • Elliot D. Jesch
  • Chai Siah Ku
  • Young-Ki Park
  • Fan Lu
  • Timothy P. Carr
  • Ji-Young LeeEmail author
Original Contribution



Intake of an edible blue-green alga Nostoc commune var. sphaeroides Kützing (N. Commune) has been shown to lower plasma total cholesterol concentration, but the mechanisms behind the hypocholesterolemic effect have not been elucidated.

Aim of the study

To elucidate the mechanisms underlying the cholesterol-lowering effect of N. commune in mice.


Male C57BL/6J mice were fed the AIN-93 M diet supplemented with 0 or 5% (wt/wt) dried N. Commune for 4 weeks. Lipid levels in the plasma and liver, intestinal cholesterol absorption and fecal sterol excretion were measured. Expression of hepatic and intestinal genes involved in cholesterol metabolism was evaluated by quantitative realtime PCR.


N. commune supplementation significantly reduced total plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations by ~ 20% compared to controls. Intestinal cholesterol absorption was significantly decreased, while fecal neutral sterol output was significantly increased in N. commune-fed mice. mRNA levels of the cholesterol transporters such as Niemann Pick C1 Like 1, scavenger receptor class B type 1, ATP-binding cassette transporters G5 and A1 in small intestine were not significantly different between two groups. Hepatic lipid contents including total cholesterol, triglyceride and free cholesterol in N. commune-fed mice were not significantly altered. However, the expression of cholesterol modulating genes including sterol regulatory element binding protein-2 and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase were significantly increased in mice fed N. commune.


N. commune supplementation exerted a hypocholesterolemic effect in mice, largely in part, by reducing intestinal cholesterol absorption and promoting fecal neutral sterol excretion.


Blue-green algae Nostoc commune var. sphaeroides Kützing Cholesterol metabolism Cholesterol absorption 


N. commune

Nostoc commune var. sphaeroides Kützing


3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA reductase


Low-density lipoprotein receptor


Fatty acid synthase




Sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c


Sterol regulatory element binding protein-2


Scavenger receptor class B, type 1


Niemann Pick C1-Like 1


ATP-binding cassette transporter A1


ATP-binding cassette transporter G5


Glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase



This work was supported by the Hatch Act and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Council Interdisciplinary grant to J-Y Lee, by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Research Division Honors Student Undergraduate Research to K. R. Blobaum and by University of Nebraska-Lincoln UCARE Award to C. S. Ku.

Conflict of interest statement

None declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather E. Rasmussen
    • 1
  • Kara R. Blobaum
    • 1
  • Elliot D. Jesch
    • 1
  • Chai Siah Ku
    • 1
  • Young-Ki Park
    • 1
  • Fan Lu
    • 2
  • Timothy P. Carr
    • 1
  • Ji-Young Lee
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Nutrition and Health SciencesUniversity of NebraskaLincolnUSA
  2. 2.Algaen CorporationWinston-SalemUSA

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