Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

27 Scopus citations


Cyanobacteria constitute a group of evolutionarily related, ancient, morphologically diverse, and ecologically important phototrophic bacteria. They carry out oxygenic photosynthesis (water-oxidizing, oxygen-evolving, plant-like photosynthesis). With few exceptions, they synthesize chlorophyll a as major photosynthetic pigment and phycobiliproteins as light-harvesting pigments. They fix CO2 as the sole source of carbon using primarily the reductive pentose phosphate pathway. Their chemoorganotrophic potential generally is restricted to the mobilization of reserve polymers during dark periods. They display some of the most sophisticated morphological differentiation among bacteria, and many species are truly multicellular organisms. Cyanobacteria have left fossil remains as old as 2000-3500 million years, are ultimately responsible for the oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere, and constitute the evolutionary ancestry of the photosynthesizing plastids of algae and higher plants. Today, with a global biomass estimated to exceed 1015 g, they contribute importantly to the global primary production of the oceans and become locally dominant in many extreme environments. Blooms of cyanobacteria are important features for the ecology and management of many eutrophic fresh and brackish water bodies. The aerobic nitrogen-fixing capacity of some makes them important players in the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle of tropical oceans, terrestrial environments, and in some agricultural practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Microbiology, Third Edition
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780123739445
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • benthos
  • blue-green algae
  • cell differentiation
  • chlorophyll
  • extreme environments
  • nitrogen fixation
  • photoautotrophy
  • photosynthesis
  • phycobiliproteins
  • plankton
  • primary production
  • symbiosis
  • toxins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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