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Cyanobacterial Hosts and Methods for Producing Structurally Diverse Chemicals

Engineered Cyanobacterial System for the Production of Natural Products Such as Shinorine

This genetically modified cyanobacterial host system uses Synechocystis as the host bacteria to produce structurally diverse natural products. Cyanobacterial natural products and their analogs are useful chemicals in health, agriculture and other industries. While some available cyanobacterial strains have been employed in producing valuable chemicals, e.g., biofuels, commodity chemicals, and biomaterials, the yield of natural products from native cyanobacteria is often low. Additionally, a problem exists to produce these chemicals in commonly used bacterial systems because they can have difficulty reading the inserted cyanobacterial genetic material. In this regard, the use of genetically modified cyanobacterial systems for the production of cyanobacterial natural products is enticing, but is still in its infancy.

Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a cyanobacterial system that efficiently reads the inserted genetic material and generates a high yield of the target products and its analogs, providing a variety of potentially viable compounds for research and development or commercial applications.



An easily customizable engineered cyanobacterial system that photosynthetically produces diverse chemicals for a variety of applications such as biofuels, commodity chemicals, biomaterials and active ingredients



  • Useful for producing a wide variety of bioactive cyanobacterial natural products such as the sunscreen ingredient shinorine
  • Can be used for synthesizing cyanobacterial secondary metabolites, polyketides, nonribosomal peptides and their hybrids and other major families of natural products
  • Modifies and grows easily with a relatively short doubling time (five to ten hours) compared to other cyanobacterial species
  • Can generate a ten-fold more product in a relatively short amount of time


The cyanobacterial system uses the cyanobacterium Synechocystis as the host to produce bioactive chemicals. Synechocystis is genetically modified to produce the target natural products and analogs. Cyanobacterial systems economically produce compounds since they only need sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water for growth and chemical production. The cyanobacterium can be engineered with gene clusters to photosynthetically overproduce compounds of interest. Proof of principle of this technology was demonstrated by engineering Synechocystis as a host to produce the sunscreen ingredient shinorine. The target genes responsible for shinorine synthesis were isolated from the filamentous cyanobacterium Fischerella which is a native producer of shinorine. The engineered strains produce ten-fold more shinorine than the native cyanobacterium.

Patent Information: