Photosynthetic microorganisms, and especially cyanobacteria, hold great promise as cell factories for sustainable production of bulk and specialty chemicals as well as nutritional compounds. While these organisms may be more difficult to work with as “chassis” strains for synthetic biology than certain heterotrophs, the unique advantages of autotrophs in biotechnology applications as well as the scientific importance of improved understanding of photosynthesis warrant the development of these organisms into systems akin to “green E. coli”. The commonly used photosynthetic microbial organisms grow significantly slower than industrially relevant heterotrophic microbes. During recent years, we have identified a cyanobacterium that grow as fast as yeast, while using only light and CO2 as the principal feedstocks. The potentials of such fast-growing organisms as autotrophic cell factories will be discussed.
Dr. Himadri B. Pakrasi is the Myron And Sonya Glassberg/Albert and Blanche Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor and Director of the International Center from Energy, Environment and Sustainability at Washington University in St. Louis.