Cyanobacteria are key organisms in the global ecosystem, useful models for studying metabolic and physiological processes conserved in photosynthetic organisms, and potential renewable platforms for production of chemicals. Characterising cyanobacterial metabolism and physiology is key to understanding their role in the environment and unlocking their potential for biotechnology applications. Many aspects of cyanobacterial biology differ from heterotrophic bacteria. For example, most cyanobacteria incorporate a series of internal thylakoid membranes where both oxygenic photosynthesis and respiration occur, while CO2 fixation takes place in specialised compartments termed carboxysomes. In this review, we provide a comprehensive summary of our knowledge on cyanobacterial physiology and the pathways in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 (Synechocystis) involved in biosynthesis of sugar-based metabolites, amino acids, nucleotides, lipids, cofactors, vitamins, isoprenoids, pigments and cell wall components, in addition to the proteins involved in metabolite transport. While some pathways are conserved between model cyanobacteria, such as Synechocystis, and model heterotrophic bacteria like Escherichia coli, many enzymes and/or pathways involved in the biosynthesis of key metabolites in cyanobacteria have not been completely characterised. These include pathways required for biosynthesis of chorismate and membrane lipids, nucleotides, several amino acids, vitamins and cofactors, and isoprenoids such as plastoquinone, carotenoids, and tocopherols. Moreover, our understanding of photorespiration, lipopolysaccharide assembly and transport, and degradation of lipids, sucrose, most vitamins and amino acids, and heme, is incomplete. We discuss tools that may aid characterisation of cyanobacterial metabolism, notably CyanoSource, a barcoded library of targeted Synechocystis mutants, which will significantly accelerate characterisation of individual proteins.
- comparative genomics