Production of thermostable phycocyanin in a mesophilic cyanobacterium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Phycocyanin (PC) is a soluble phycobiliprotein found within the light-harvesting phycobilisome complex of cyanobacteria and red algae, and is considered a high-value product due to its brilliant blue colour and fluorescent properties. However, commercially available PC has a relatively low temperature stability. Thermophilic species produce more thermostable variants of PC, but are challenging and energetically expensive to cultivate. Here, we show that the PC operon from the thermophilic cyanobacterium Thermosynechococcus elongatus BP-1 (cpcBACD) is functional in the mesophile Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Expression of cpcBACD in an ‘Olive’ mutant strain of Synechocystis lacking endogenous PC resulted in high yields of thermostable PC (112 ± 1 mg g-1 DW) comparable to that of endogenous PC in wild-type cells. Heterologous PC also improved the growth of the Olive mutant, which was further supported by evidence of a functional interaction with the endogenous allophycocyanin core of the phycobilisome complex. The thermostability properties of the heterologous PC were comparable to those of PC from T. elongatus, and could be purified from the Olive mutant using a low-cost heat treatment method. Finally, we developed a scalable model to calculate the energetic benefits of producing PC from T. elongatus in Synechocystis cultures. Our model showed that the higher yields and lower cultivation temperatures of Synechocystis resulted in a 3.5-fold increase in energy efficiency compared to T. elongatus, indicating that producing thermostable PC in non-native hosts is a cost-effective strategy for scaling to commercial production.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00175
Number of pages13
JournalMetabolic Engineering Communications
Early online date2 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • allophycocyanin
  • energy transfer
  • linker
  • phycobilisome
  • synechocystis sp. 6803
  • thermosynechococcus elongatus BP-1


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