Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 1089–1097 | Cite as

Isoprene production in Synechocystis under alkaline and saline growth conditions

  • Julie E. Chaves
  • Henning Kirst
  • Anastasios Melis


Photosynthesis for the generation of isoprene in cyanobacteria was demonstrated with Synechocystis, entailing a process where a single host microorganism acts as both photocatalyst and processor, photosynthesizing and emitting isoprene hydrocarbons. A practical aspect of the commercial exploitation of this process in mass culture is the need to prevent invading microorganisms that might cause a culture to crash, and to provide an alternative to freshwater in scale-up applications. Growth media poised at alkaline pH are desirable in this respect, as high pH might favor the growth of the cyanobacteria, while at the same time discouraging the growth of invading predatory microbes and grazers. In addition, demonstration of salinity tolerance would enable the use of seawater for cyanobacteria cultivations. However, it is not known if Synechocystis growth and the isoprene-producing metabolism can be retained under such theoretically non-physiological conditions. We applied the gaseous/aqueous two-phase photobioreactor system with Synechocystis transformed with the isoprene synthase gene (SkIspS) of Pueraria montana (kudzu). Rates of growth and isoprene production are reported under control, and a combination of alkalinity and salinity conditions. The results showed that alkalinity and salinity do not exert a negative effect on either cell growth or isoprene production rate and yield in Synechocystis. The work points to a practical approach in the design of cyanobacterial growth media for applications in commercial scale-up and isoprene production.


Bioenergy Biofuels Cyanobacteria Productivity Terpenes 


  1. Bentley FK, Melis A (2012) Diffusion-based process for carbon dioxide uptake and isoprene emission in gaseous/aqueous two-phase photobioreactors by photosynthetic microorganisms. Biotechnol Bioeng 109:100–109CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bentley FK, Zubriggen A, Melis A (2014) Heterologous expression of the mevalonic acid pathway in cyanobacteria enhances endogenous carbon partitioning to isoprene. Mol Plant 7:71–86CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bjorkman O, Demmig B (1987) Photon yield of O2 evolution and chlorophyll fluorescence characteristics at 77-K among vascular plants of diverse origins. Planta 170:489–504CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Cooney MJ, Young G, Pate R (2011) Bio-oil from photosynthetic microalgae: case study. Bioresour Technol 102:166–177CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Dismukes GC, Carrieri D, Bennette N, Ananyev GM, Posewitz MC (2008) Aquatic phototrophs: efficient alternatives to land-based crops for biofuels. Curr Opin Biotechnol 19:235–240CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Glazer AN, Melis A (1987) Photochemical reaction centers: structure, organization, and function. Annu Rev Plant Physiol 38:11–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Guenther A, Karl T, Harley P, Wiedinmyer C, Palmer PI, Geron C (2006) Estimates of global terrestrial isoprene emissions using MEGAN (Model of Emissions of Gases and Aerosols from Nature. Atmos Chem Phys 6:3181–3210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hagemann M (2011) Molecular biology of cyanobacterial salt acclimation. FEMS Microbiol Rev 35:87–123CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Herrera A, Boussiba S, Napoleone V, Hohlberg A (1989) Recovery of C-phycocyanin from the cyanobacterium Spirulina maxima. J Appl Phycol 1:325–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ley AC, Mauzerall D (1982) Absolute absorption cross-section of photosystem-II and the minimum quantum requirement for photosynthesis in Chlorella vulgaris. Biochim Biophys Acta 680:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lichtenthaler HK (1987) Chlorophylls and carotenoids: pigments of photosynthetic biomembranes. Methods Enzymol 148:350–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lichtenthaler HK (2007) Biosynthesis, accumulation and emission of carotenoids, α-tocopherol, plastoquinone, and isoprene in leaves under high photosynthetic irradiance. Photosynth Res 92:163–179CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Lichtenthaler HK (2010) Biosynthesis and emission of isoprene, methylbutenol and other volatile plant isoprenoids. In: Herrmann A (ed) The Chemistry and Biology of Volatiles. John Wiley & Sons, West Sussex, UK, pp 11–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lindberg P, Park S, Melis A (2010) Engineering a platform for photosynthetic isoprene production in cyanobacteria, using Synechocystis as the model organism. Metabol Eng 12:70–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Manodori M, Melis A (1984) Photochemical apparatus organization in Anacystis nidulans (Cyanophyceae). Plant Physiol 74:67–71CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. McGinn PJ, Dickinson KE, Bhatti S, Frigon J-C, Guiot SR, O’Leary SJB (2011) Integration of microalgae cultivation with industrial waste remediation for biofuel and bioenergy production: opportunities and limitations. Photosynth Res 109:231–247CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Melis A (1989) Spectroscopic methods in photosynthesis: photosystem stoichiometry and chlorophyll antenna size. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 323:397–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Melis A (2012) Photosynthesis-to-Fuels: From sunlight to hydrogen, isoprene, and botryococcene production. Energy Environ Sci 5:5531–5539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Melis A (2013) Carbon partitioning in photosynthesis. Curr Opin Chem Biol 17:453–456CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Naus J, Melis A (1991) Changes of photosystem stoichiometry during cell growth in Dunaliella salina cultures. Plant Cell Physiol 32:569–575Google Scholar
  21. Pate R, Klise G, Wu B (2011) Resource demand implications for US algae biofuels production scale-up. Appl Energy 88:3377–3388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Parhad NM, Rao NU (1974) Effect of pH on survival of Escherichia coli. J Water Poll Control Fedn 46:980–986Google Scholar
  23. Pikuta EV, Hoover RB, Tang J (2007) Microbial extremophiles at the limits of life. Crit Rev Microbiol 33:183–209CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Pittman JK, Dean AP, Osundeko O (2011) The potential of sustainable algal biofuel production using wastewater resources. Bioresour Technol 102:17–25CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Schubert H, Hagemann M (1990) Salt effects on 77 K fluorescence and photosynthesis in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. FEMS Microbiol Lett 72:169–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sonoda M, Katoh H, Vermaas W, Schmetterer G, Ogawa T (1998) Photosynthetic electron transport involved in PxcA-dependent proton extrusion in Synechocystis sp strain PCC6803: effect of pxcA inactivation on CO2, HCO3 , and NO3 uptake. J Bacteriol 180:3799–3803PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Summerfield TC, Sherman LA (2008) Global transcriptional response of the alkali-tolerant cyanobacterium Synechocystsis sp. PCC 6803 to a pH 10 environment. Appl Environ Microbiol 74:5275–5284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Xiaomei LV, Haoming X, Hongwei Y (2012) Significantly enhanced production of isoprene by ordered coexpression of dxs, dxr, and idi in Escherichia coli. Appl Microbiol Technol 97:2357–2365Google Scholar
  29. Yang J, Xu M, Zhang X, Hu Q, Sommerfeld M, Chen Y (2011) Life-cycle analysis on biodiesel production from microalgae: water footprint and nutrients balance. Bioresour Technol 102:159–165CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Zurbriggen A, Kirst H, Melis A (2012) Isoprene production via the mevalonic acid pathway in Escherichia coli (Bacteria). BioEnergy Res 5:814–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie E. Chaves
    • 1
  • Henning Kirst
    • 1
  • Anastasios Melis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant & Microbial BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations