Tunisian inland water microflora as a source of phycobiliproteins and biological activity with beneficial effects on human health

Khaled Gharbi, Afef Fathalli, Rym Essid, Chiheb Fassatoui, Mohamed Salah Romdhane, Ferid Limam, Amel Ben Rejeb Jenhani

Paper category: Original research paper
Corresponding author: Khaled Gharbi (khaledgharbi10@yahoo.fr)
DOI: 10.2478/oandhs-2021-0033
Received: 02/05/2021
Accepted: 05/07/2021
Full text: here

Citation (APA style): Gharbi,K.,Fathalli,A.,Essid,R.,Fassatoui,C.,Romdhane,M.,Limam,F. & Rejeb Jenhani,A.(2021).Tunisian inland water microflora as a source of phycobiliproteins and biological activity with beneficial effects on human health. Oceanological and Hydrobiological Studies,50(4) 385-397. https://doi.org/10.2478/oandhs-2021-0033


Ten monoclonal microalgal cultures were obtained from several Tunisian inland water bodies, and their dichloromethane and methanolic extracts were screened for antibacterial, antileishmanial, and antioxidant properties, as well as phycobiliprotein production capacity. Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii has been shown to synthesize high levels of phycocyanin and may be an effective alternative source to other sources used for commercial production of phycocyanin. Chroococcus sp. and Leptolyngbya sp1. exhibited the strongest radical scavenging activity against DPPH (IC50 = 212.15 and 263.91 μg ml−1, respectively), indicating their promising potential for use as new effective and non-toxic antioxidants. Furthermore, Dunaliella sp. showed an interesting antileishmanial activity against the pathogens Leishmania infantum and Leishmania major (IC50 = 151 and 284 µg ml−1, respectively), thus representing a good candidate for use against cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis in Tunisia, a country endemic to these diseases where thousands of new cases are registered every year. These results suggest that the strains of microalgae featured in this work have the potential to serve as natural alternative, safe and sustainable sources of high value-added products that could be used to improve the final biomass value.


The present study provides important, clear and reliable information on 10 microalgal strains that colonize several Tunisian inland water bodies with respect to their potential for production of phycobiliproteins, and the evaluation of their antioxidant, antibacterial, and antileishmanial effects. The cyanobacterium Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii occupied a unique position among all the investigated isolates, considering its higher production and accumulation capacity of phycocyanin. This is a characteristic that certainly gives this strain a significant potential for use in the biotechnological production of this extremely valuable pigment. The genera Chroococcus and Leptolyngbya exhibited promising antioxidant activity, making them potential candidates as new natural sources of effective and non-toxic antioxidants. Eukaryotic unicellular green microalgae Dunaliella sp. showed the best antileishmanial properties. This result is of particular importance, especially in the context of Tunisia, where cutaneous leishmaniasis caused by L. major continues to cause thousands of new cases of infection each year and is a major health problem for the local population.
In view of the results obtained in the present work, we believe that the optimization of culture conditions, especially light and temperature, targeting the most potential strains will have an impact on increasing their potentiality. In addition, the use of genetic engineering as a measure to control the expression level of the genes encoding this activity would be of great benefit.


The present work was supported by Laboratoire Ecosystèmes et Ressources Aquatiques et Animales, Institut National Agronomique de Tunisie, University of Carthage with the collaboration of Bioactive Substances Laboratory, Biotechnology Center of Borj-Cedria, Tunisia, which are greatly acknowledged. This research was also financially supported by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Tunisian government.


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