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Phycobilisomes present in cyanobacteria are photosynthetic macromolecular protein complexes that are categorized into three types - phycoerythrins (high energy), phycocyanin (intermediate energy) and allophycocyanin (low energy). Structurally, they consist of α and β protein subunits and open chain tetrapyrrole prosthetic group (bilin chromophore), known for its antioxidant properties and therapeutic potential against a variety of physiological ailments. Phycoerythrins (C-PE) were purified from cyanobacterial strains Phormidium sp. A27DM and Halomicronema sp. A32DM and their respective apoptotic potentials were assessed on A549 human lung carcinoma cells. Both strains of cyanobacteria were cultured and the C-PE from each strain was extracted, quantified and characterized. C-PE accounted for a dose dependent decrement in cell viability, mitochondrial membrane potential and an increment in lactate dehydrogenase release. Higher doses of C-PE (of both strains) accounted for loss of cell viability and nuclear pycnosis. These findings were further substantiated with flow cytometry that revealed a cell arrest at G0/G1 phase and a high percentage of cells undergoing apoptosis following C-PE treatment. These results confirm the efficacy of C-PE from Phormidium sp. or Halomicronema sp. in triggering apoptotic cell death. This study is the first to report on apoptotic property of C-PE against A549 human lung carcinoma cells and warrants further studies to establish its anti-cancer potential.
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