Bioactive compounds from cyanobacteria
Cyanobacteria (blue green algae) are prokaryotic organisms capable of producing large amounts of diverse organic compounds, which are collectively called secondary metabolites and can display a wide range of structural variants. Interestingly these compounds are not essential for their primary metabolism, but since cyanobacteria may produce them in large quantities, they play a significant role in the ecosystem, with some being harmful to humans (cytotoxins). Thanks to the extensive research in this field over the last decades, several cyanobacterial toxin groups have been described in more detail, particularly hepatotoxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin, and neurotoxins: anatoxins and saxitoxins. There exist more metabolites of cyanobacterial origin for which the effects in the ecosystem and towards humans have not been recognized yet.
It is not only harmful cyanotoxins which capture the attention, but there are many cyanobacterial compounds that are potentially very useful in the pharmaceutical industry, mainly due to their structural diversity, which gives the cyanobacterial metabolites potential for being templates for drugs (applications) and thus attracts many research groups to search for these bioactive compounds. There are already examples of cyanobacterial metabolites with antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and anticancer activities, some of them already being used in the industry.
The main research topic of our group is cyanobacterial metabolites and their effect on human cell lines in vitro from both a pharmacological and toxicological point of view.