Background: Pyropia (Porphyra), commonly known as nori or laver, is an important food source in many parts of the world. Edible dried Pyropia contains numerous nutrients and biofunctional components, including proteins, vitamins, eicosapentaenoic acid, minerals, carotenoids, mycosporine-like amino acids, and carbohydrate, and one of the compounds which we are interested in is porphyran, a sulfated polysaccharide comprising the hot-water-soluble portion of Pyropia cell walls. Researchers have performed a large number of in-depth studies on the biological activity and potential therapeutic applications of porphyrans and oligoporphyrans.
Methods: This minireview aims to provide comprehensive and update overview on the source, extraction, structure, biological activities and structure-activity relationships of porphyrans and oligoporphyrans based on the studies in the past 30 years which were included in Web of Science.
Results: The structure of porphyran has been basically determined given that its straight chain is relatively simple, and the skeleton structure has been described. The extraction methods were simplified continuously, but different extraction methods and post- processing methods still had great influence on the structure and composition of porphyran, so there was no standardized extraction process which can achieve quality control until now. In order to obtain oligoporphyrans, there are a variety of degradation methods, including chemical method, physical method and enzymatic method, but it is worth mentioning that specific degradation enzyme is still unavailable. Studies on the biological and pharmacology properties include antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulation, Anti-cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and drug delivery.
Conclusion: Owing to the therapeutic potential and drug delivery applications, porphyran and oligoporphyrans are expected to be further developed as a medicine against human diseases, as well as a supplement in cosmetics and health products.