Bioactivity and Applications of Polysaccharides from Marine Microalgae

  • Maria Filomena de Jesus Raposo
  • Alcina Maria Miranda Bernardo de Morais
  • Rui Manuel Santos Costa de Morais
Living reference work entry


Marine microorganisms have been under research for the last decades, as sources of different biocompounds, each with various applications. Polysaccharides (PSs) are among these chemicals being produced and released by marine microalgae. These are very heterogeneous, including cyanobacteria and eukaryotic microalgae from several divisions/phyla, each of which with different characteristics. The PSs, sulfated or not, that they produce have already proved to be promising agents in various fields, such as food, feed, pharmaceutical, and biomedical. They can also be applied in wastewater and/or soil treatment and in some engineering areas, as naval engineering.

After a brief introduction on the general types of biopolymers produced by marine microalgae and cyanobacteria, this chapter starts by presenting the species of these microorganisms and the types of PSs they produce, as well as the respective chemical composition; goes into the production of PSs and the effect of specific compounds; and focuses on the physicochemical properties of these PSs and their composition and structure, approaching the rheological properties relevant for their functions and behavior. The bioactivity of PSs and their applications are, next, presented, including therapeutic applications based on their antiviral and antibacterial activities, antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory characteristics, antitumoral activity, and antilipidemic and antiglycemic properties, among others. The potential use of PSs from marine microalgae as it is or incorporated in health foods is also considered. The mechanisms behind their antiviral and antibacterial activities are explained. Toxicological and safety issues are also disclosed, and there is a brief mention of the bioavailability of PSs from microalgae. The chapter ends by listing some preclinical studies with this type of polymers.


Marine microalgae Polysaccharides Sulfate (exo)polysaccharides Health foods Bioactivity-Antioxidant Antiviral Antitumoral Immunomodulators Toxicity 





Calcium spirulan




The molar concentration of a drug that produces 50 % of the maximum possible response for that drug


In vitro or in vivo dose of drug that produces 50 % of its maximum response or effect










Galacturonic acid


Glucuronic acid




The molar concentration of a drug which produces 50 % of its maximum possible inhibition


In vitro or in vivo dose of a drug that causes 50 % of the maximum possible inhibition for that drug




Molecular weight


Sodium spirulan


Nitric oxide






Sulfated exopolysaccharide


Sulfated polysaccharide





This work was supported by National Funds from FCT through project PEst-OE/EQB/LA0016/2013.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Filomena de Jesus Raposo
    • 1
  • Alcina Maria Miranda Bernardo de Morais
    • 1
  • Rui Manuel Santos Costa de Morais
    • 1
  1. 1.CBQF - Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina – Laboratório Associado, Escola Superior de BiotecnologiaUniversidade Católica Portuguesa/PortoPortoPortugal

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