Microcystinase – a review of the natural occurrence, heterologous expression, and biotechnological application of MlrA

Jason Dexter, Alistair J McCormick, Pengcheng Fu, Dariusz Dziga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Microcystinase (MlrA) was first described in 1996. Since then MlrA peptidase activity has proven to be both the most efficient enzymatic process and the most specific catalyst of all known microcystins detoxification pathways. Furthermore, MlrA and the MlrABC degradation pathway are presently the only enzymatic processes with clear genetic and biochemical descriptions available for microcystins degradation, greatly facilitating modern applied genetics for any relevant technological development. Recently, there has been increasing interest in the potential of sustainable, biologically inspired alternatives to current industrial practice, with note that biological microcystins degradation is the primary detoxification process found in nature. While previous reviews have broadly discussed microbial biodegradation processes, here we present a review focused specifically on MlrA. Following a general overview, we briefly highlight the initial discovery and present understanding of the MlrABC degradation pathway, before discussing the genetic and biochemical aspects of MlrA. We then review the potential biotechnology applications of MlrA in the context of available literature with emphasis on the optimization of MlrA for in situ applications including (i) direct modulation of Mlr activity within naturally existing populations, (ii) bioaugmentation of systems with introduced biodegradative capacity via whole cell biocatalysts, and (iii) bioremediation via direct MlrA application.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116646
JournalWater Research
Early online date16 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • microcystins
  • MlrA
  • harmful cyanobacteria
  • bioremediation
  • harmful algae


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