Hokkaido University Research Profiles

Life Sciences

Health Benefit of Red Algae Phycobiliprotein

Clarifying the health functions and mechanisms of phycoerythrin, which is abundantly contained in red algae dulse

We have discovered that Dulse, an unused red alga distributed along the coast of Hokkaido, is rich in the red protein phycoerythrin (PE), which may have a variety of health functions. Currently, we are analyzing the structure of PE to elucidate the mechanism of its health functions.

Content of research

Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is a red alga mainly distributed in Hokkaido. It is an unused seaweed that thrives on kelp cultivation ropes during the winter. Dulse prevents the kelp from growing and is thus removed from the ropes. Recently, we have found that Dulse contains approximately 40% protein per dry weight (comparable to soybeans), and its major component is red phycoerythrin (PE), a photosynthetic auxiliary pigment. We have also found that this PE and peptides prepared from PE have health functions, such as ACE inhibition, antioxidation and brain function improvement (Marine Drugs 14:1-10 (2016), Journal of Food Biochemistry, 41: e12301 (2017)).

Potential for social implementation

  • ・Ingredient of various foods such as salads and soups.
  • ・Ingredient of FOSHU (food for specified health use) or supplements for people who are worried about high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
  • ・Fluorescent protein reagent for research use.

Appealing points to industry and local governments

・Hokkaido’s unique red algae, dulse, grows in abundance and its harvest season differs from that of kelp (summer), so it may help fishery operators increase their income during the winter.
・Although Dulse is almost unknown in Japan, it has long been eaten abroad; it could become a new brand product of Hokkaido.
・We have already clarified the primary, steric and genetic structures of Dulse PE, the active substance.