CORDIS - EU research results

Seeing in the New Light: Photoreceptor Expression System for Cyanobacteria

Project description

Light-controlled gene expression could augment enzyme activity in cyanobacterial ‘factories’

Cyanobacteria are the earliest known form of life on Earth. These microscopic photosynthetic factories have very interesting and diverse metabolic pathways leading to biochemicals with potential socioeconomic impact, including biofuels and bioplastics. As synthetic chemistry relies on catalysts to enhance the speed and volume of production, cyanobacteria rely on nature’s catalysts, enzymes. Augmenting their output thus requires fine-tuning the expression of these enzymes. With the support of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions programme, the PhotoCyX project will develop a cyanobacterial expression tool that responds to red light based on a phytochrome photoreceptor to enable highly tuneable control of gene expression. Successful testing will unleash the promise of nature’s factories.


Cyanobacteria, the green microbial factories, are able to produce important biochemicals such as biofuel and bioplastics that offer a timely solution to many of the environmental challenges of our time, such as pollution and fuel security. The stability of the process and production yield, however, are dependent on the optimum synthesis of the enzymes involved in their metabolic processes.

The goal of this research is to create a cyanobacterial expression tool that responds to red light based on a phytochrome photoreceptor. This tool will enable precise and highly tunable control of cyanobacterial gene expression with two wavelengths of red light. While the study is expected to show the potential of photoswitches for controlling biological processes, it will likely disclose distinct obstacles in the search for an ideal cyanobacterial expression system.

The project will start with the construction of expression plasmids and their application to the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. The light responses of the resulting expression strains will then be tested by illumination experiments, where the increased expression of the reporter (green fluorescent protein) will be detected with fluorescence spectroscopy.

The proposed 24-month project will take place at the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland) under the supervision of Dr. Heikki Takala. The project also includes a two-month secondment training session at the laboratory of Prof. Andreas Möglich at the University of Bayreuth (Germany). This project is designed to combine the skills of the researcher in cyanobacterial studies and the expertise of the supervisor in phytochrome biology. Overall, the planned activity is methodically structured to nurture new abilities while addressing knowledge gaps. The project will provide the applicant with academic excellence, leading to higher prospects for a tenured academic position in Europe.


Net EU contribution
€ 215 534,40
40100 Jyvaskyla

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Manner-Suomi Länsi-Suomi Keski-Suomi
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

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