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Implications of agar and agarase in industrial applications of sustainable marine biomass


Agar, a major component of the cell wall of red algae, is an interesting heteropolysaccharide containing an unusual sugar, 3,6-anhydro-l-galactose. It is widely used as a valuable material in various industrial and experimental applications due to its characteristic gelling and stabilizing properties. Agar-derived oligosaccharides or mono-sugars produced by various agarases have become a promising subject for research owing to their unique biological activities, including anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, immunomodulatory, anti-tumor, antioxidant, skin-whitening, skin-moisturizing, anti-fatigue, and anti-cariogenic activities. Agar is also considered as an alternative sustainable source of biomass for chemical feedstock and biofuel production to substitute for the fossil resource. In this review, we summarize various biochemically characterized agarases, which are useful for industrial applications, such as neoagarooligosaccharide or agarooligosaccharide production and saccharification of agar. Additionally, we succinctly discuss various recent studies that have been conducted to investigate the versatile biological activities of agar-derived saccharides and biofuel production from agar biomass. This review provides a basic framework for understanding the importance of agarases and agar-derived saccharides with broad applications in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food, and bioenergy industries.

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This work was supported by research grants from the NRF funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (NRF-2018R1A1A1A05023049) and Cooperative Research Program for Agriculture Science and Technology Development (Project No. PJ01328801) founded by Rural Development Administration, Republic of Korea.

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Correspondence to Soon-Kwang Hong.

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This article contains studies with experimental rats, which was approved by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (permission number of 2013-05-121) at Gyeonggi Bio Center, Republic of Korea.

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Park, S.H., Lee, C. & Hong, S. Implications of agar and agarase in industrial applications of sustainable marine biomass. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-020-10412-6

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  • Red algae
  • Agar
  • Agarose
  • Neoagarooligosaccharide
  • Agarooligosaccharide
  • Biological activity
  • Biofuel