Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Microbiology 107:4 (October 2009), pp. 1108–1118.

doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2009.04288.x


Copyright © 2009 H. E. Rasmussen, I. Martínez, J. Y. Lee, and J. Walter; published by the Society for Applied Microbiology and Wiley. Used by permission.


Aims: To characterize the effect of edible blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) on the gastrointestinal microbiota of mice. Methods and Results: C57BL⁄6J mice were fed a diet supplemented with 0% or 5% dried Nostoc commune, Spirulina platensis, or Aphanizominon flos-aquae (w⁄w) for 4 weeks. Molecular fingerprinting of the colonic microbiota using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis revealed that administration of N. commune induced major alterations in colonic microbiota composition, while administration of S. platensis or A. flos-aquae had a more subtle impact. Community profile analysis revealed that administration of N. commune did not reduce microbial diversity indices of the colonic microbiota. Despite its pronounced effects on the bacterial composition in the colon, total bacterial numbers in the gut of mice fed N. commune were not reduced as assessed by quantitative real-time PCR and bacteriological culture. Conclusions: The results presented here show that administration of blue-green algae, and especially N. commune, alters colonic microbiota composition in mice with limited effects on total bacterial numbers or microbial diversity. Significance and Impact of the Study: Blue-green algae are consumed in many countries as a source of nutrients and to promote health, and they are intensively studied for their pharmaceutical value. Given the importance of the gut microbiota for many host functions, the effects of blue-green algae on gut microbial ecology revealed during this study should be considered when using them as food supplements or when studying their pharmaceutical properties.