Potential and Commercial Applications for Photosynthetic Prokaryotes

  • Nigel W. Kerby
  • Peter Rowell
Part of the Biotechnology Handbooks book series (BTHA, volume 6)


The cyanobacteria, together with phototrophic green and purple bacteria and prochlorophytes, share a basic prokaryotic cellular organization and together constitute the photosynthetic prokaryotes (see Stanier et al., 1981). A major distinction between the photosynthetic bacteria and cyanobacteria is the presence of oxygenic photosynthesis, with two photosystems acting in series, in cyanobacteria and of anoxygenic photosynthesis, using only one photosystem, in photosynthetic bacteria. In 1952 the first Algal Mass Culture Symposium was held to consider potential applications of microalgae (Burlew, 1953) and there has since been an increasing interest in this field. Oxygenic photosynthesis is a unique means of utilizing cheap substrates (CO2, H2O, and solar energy) for the primary production of organic compounds and many potential applications of cyanobacteria rely on this process. Since photosynthetic bacteria carry out anoxygenic photosynthesis, their use requires the provision of organic or inorganic electron donors; for example, organic wastes. Certain species of cyanobacteria and photosynthetic bacteria have the ability to fix atmospheric dinitrogen, catalyzed by the enzyme nitrogenase. The agronomic potential of nitrogen fixation by cyanobacteria, particularly in the cultivation of rice, is well documented, as is the production of H2, catalyzed by nitrogenase, in both photosynthetic bacteria and cyanobacteria.


Photosynthetic Bacterium Rhodobacter Sphaeroides Rhodospirillum Rubrum Rhodopseudomonas Palustris Anabaena Variabilis 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nigel W. Kerby
    • 1
  • Peter Rowell
    • 1
  1. 1.Agricultural and Food Research Council Research Group on Cyanobacteria, and Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK

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