Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria

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Cyanobacteria or blue-green algae are a group of prokaryotes well known for their ability to carry out oxygenic photosynthesis. These photoautotrophs show greater photosynthetic efficiency, simpler genetic structures and faster growth compared to terrestrial plants and green algae.  Moreover, cyanobacteria can be engineered genetically and can grow on non-arable land, waste-water and seawater.  These properties make cyanobacteria an interesting host for biotechnological applications. In several proof-of-concept studies, cyanobacteria have been engineered to produce biofuels, plastics and commodity chemicals. However, a significant improvement in rate, yield and titer would be needed to make these processes commercially viable.  In this project we propose to engineer a locally isolated strain of cyanobacteria, Synechococcus elongatus PCC11801 for the production of various platform chemicals.  The work involves the following: (i) design and characterization of native and synthetic promoters, terminators and ribosomal binding sites and other DNA elements in cyanobacteria, (ii) development of synthetic biology tools for genome editing and transient gene expression in cyanobacteria, and (iii) engineering of the pathway of interest.

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