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Methods for enhancing cyanobacterial stress tolerance to enable improved production of biofuels and industrially relevant chemicals

Abstract

Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes that can fix atmospheric CO2 and can be engineered to produce industrially important compounds such as alcohols, free fatty acids, alkanes used in next-generation biofuels, and commodity chemicals such as ethylene or farnesene. They can be easily genetically manipulated, have minimal nutrient requirements, and are quite tolerant to abiotic stress making them an appealing alternative to other biofuel-producing microbes which require additional carbon sources and plants which compete with food crops for arable land. Many of the compounds produced in cyanobacteria are toxic as titers increase which can slow growth, reduce production, and decrease overall biomass. Additionally, many factors associated with outdoor culturing of cyanobacteria such as UV exposure and fluctuations in temperature can also limit the production potential of cyanobacteria. For cyanobacteria to be utilized successfully as biofactories, tolerance to these stressors must be increased and ameliorating stress responses must be enhanced. Genetic manipulation, directed evolution, and supplementation of culture media with antioxidants are all viable strategies for designing more robust cyanobacterial strains that have the potential to meet industrial production goals.

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Fig. 1

Abbreviations

CO2 :

carbon dioxide

UV:

ultraviolet light

UVR:

ultraviolet radiation

PAR:

photosynthetically active radiation

ROS:

reactive oxygen species

RuBisCO:

ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase

PSII:

photosystem II

HSR:

heat shock response

FFA:

free fatty acid

O2 :

superoxide anion

1O2 :

singlet oxygen

H2O2 :

hydrogen peroxide

OH:

hydroxyl radical

PSI:

photosystem I

GB:

glycine betaine

SOD:

superoxide dismutase

SOR:

superoxide reductase

NAC:

N-acetyl-l-cysteine

DNA:

deoxyribonucleic acid

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Funding

Support for some of the studies described in this review was provided by the National Science Foundation funded Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation grant no. 1332341.

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Both RLK and AMG conceived of and drafted the article.

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Correspondence to Amy M. Grunden.

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Kitchener, R.L., Grunden, A.M. Methods for enhancing cyanobacterial stress tolerance to enable improved production of biofuels and industrially relevant chemicals. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 102, 1617–1628 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-018-8755-5

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Keywords

  • Cyanobacteria
  • Biofuel
  • Stress tolerance
  • Stress response
  • Stress mitigation