Biotechnology applications of cyanobacteria
Cyanobacteria are potential platforms for production of biofuels, electricity and high value industrial products, due to their highly efficient conversion of water and CO2 to biomass using solar energy and growth on non-arable land with minimal nutrients. However, commercial production of biofuels and industrial compounds has so far proven unsuccessful. We are focusing on generating mutants with improved growth in large scale cultures by modifying the light harvesting properties of the cell.
Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 mutants with different pigment properties that demonstrate different light harvesting properties.
These strains are being further modified in order to generate mutants that produce desirable chemicals which can be used as feedstocks for bioplastics and high value compounds. In contrast to attempts by high profile companies we are using inexpensive growth facilities and cyanobacterial strains that demonstrate long term growth and compound production. Our focus is on chemicals that are secreted from the cell, thereby removing the requirement to lyse cells to obtain the desired product.
Lea-Smith DJ, Bombelli P, Dennis JS, Scott SA, Smith AG, Howe CJ (2014).
Phycobilisome deficient strains of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 have reduced size and require carbon-limiting conditions to exhibit enhanced productivity. Plant physiology 165 (2), 705-714.
McCormick AJ, Bombelli P, Lea-Smith DJ, Bradley RW, Scott AM, Fisher AC, Smith AG, Howe CJ (2013).
Hydrogen production through oxygenic photosynthesis using the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 in a bio-photoelectrolysis cell (BPE) system. Energy & Environmental Science 6 (9), 2682-2690.
Bradley RW, Bombelli P, Lea-Smith DJ, Howe CJ (2013). Terminal oxidase mutants of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 show increased electrogenic activity in biological photo-voltaic systems. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 15 (32), 13611-13618.
Professor Christopher Howe, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge
Dr Paolo Bombelli, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge
Dr Robbie Pott, Department of Process Engineering, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa