Rethinking the Limitations of Photosynthesis in Cyanobacteria

Authored by: Yehouda Marcus

Handbook of Photosynthesis

Print publication date:  March  2016
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9781482230734
eBook ISBN: 9781482230758
Adobe ISBN:

10.1201/b19498-29

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Abstract

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), the progenitors of all eukaryotic photosynthetic organisms, are free-living or symbiotic prokaryotes that are found in a broad range of ecological habitats. Although cyanobacteria mainly populate aquatic (freshwater, marine, and hypersaline) environments in the water column or the benthic zone [1], they are also found in terrestrial environments in a variety of moderate and extreme conditions, including the most inhospitable and infertile habitats on Earth [2]. Cyanobacteria can inhabit cold and frozen zones [3] but are also found in hot springs [4] or on volcanic ash, dry rocks, [5] and even soil crusts in deserts, where they face exposure to high irradiance and extreme temperatures [6]. Cyanobacteria can live in nutrient-rich or nutrient-depleted waters and soils. This ability to grow in diverse habitats results primarily from metabolic and physiological flexibility. Although they are photoautotrophs that require only water, sunlight, CO2, and certain minerals for growth, cyanobacteria have also preserved their heterotrophic metabolism, enabling them to live in darkness for extended periods of time and, in a number of strains, enabling a photomixotrophic mode of living. Many cyanobacterial species are facultative diazotrophs that fix gaseous nitrogen to a bioavailable form in the absence of fixed nitrogen in the environment. In fact, these species are the only nitrogen fixers found in aerobic environments [7].

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