Advances in cyanobacterial polyhydroxyalkanoates production

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Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) have received much attention in the current scenario due to their attractive material properties, namely biodegradability, biocompatibility, thermoplasticity, hydrophobicity, piezoelectricity and stereospecificity. All these properties make them highly competitive for various industrial applications similar to non-degradable conventional plastics. In PHA biosynthesis, PHA synthase acts as a natural catalyst for PHA polymerization process using the (R)-hydroxyacyl-CoA as substrate. Cyanobacteria can accumulate PHAs under photoautotrophic and/or mixotrophic growth conditions with organic substrates such as acetate, glucose, propionate, valerate, and so on. The natural incidence of PHA accumulation by the cyanobacteria is known since 1966. Nevertheless, PHA accumulation in cyanobacteria based on the cell biomass and volumetric productivity is critically lower than the heterotrophic bacteria. Consequently, cyanobacteria are nowadays not considered for commercial production of PHAs. Thus, strain improvements by genetic modification, new cultivation and harvesting techniques, advanced photobioreactor development, efficient and sustainable downstream processes, alternate economical carbon sources and usage of various metabolic inhibitors are suggested for enhancing cyanobacterial PHA accumulation. In addition, identification of transcriptional regulators like RNA polymerase sigma factor (SigE) and a response regulator (Rre37) together with the recent major scientific breakthrough on the existence of complete Krebs cycle in cyanobacteria would be helpful in taking PHA production from cyanobacteria to a new-fangled height in near future.

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