All bacteria release organic compounds called soluble microbial products (SMP) as a part of their normal metabolism. In photobioreactor (PBR) settings, SMP produced by cyanobacteria represent a major pool of carbon and electrons available to heterotrophic bacteria. Thus, SMP in PBRs are a major driver for the growth of heterotrophic bacteria, and understanding the distribution of SMP in PBRs is an important step toward proper management of PBR microbial communities. Here, we analyzed the SMP and microbial communities in two Synechocystis sp. PCC6803-based PBRs. The first PBR (PBRP0) became phosphate limited after several days of operation, while the second PBR (PBRP+) did not have phosphate limitation. Heterotrophic bacteria were detected in both PBRs, but PBRP0 had a much higher proportion of heterotrophic bacteria than PBRP+. Furthermore, PBRP+ had greater biomass production and lower SMP production per unit biomass than PBRP0. Carbohydrates that were most likely derived from hydrolysis of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) dominated the SMP in PBRP0, while products resulting from cell lysis or decay dominated the SMP in PBRP+. Together, our data support that maintaining phosphate availability in Synechocystis-based PBRs is important for managing SMP and, thus, the heterotrophic community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1761-1769
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Bioenergy
  • Biofuel
  • Microbial ecology
  • Photobioreactor
  • Soluble microbial products

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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