The Cyanobacteria are one of the most metabolically and morphologically diverse bacterial phyla. As the originators of oxygenic photosynthesis, they are responsible for shaping the biogeochemical landscape of the planet and continue to support much of global life. The cyanobacteria are eminently DOE relevant: they fix carbon, fix nitrogen (and compartmentalize these processes either spatially or temporally), produce hydrogen, harvest light energy, have a novel photoprotective mechanism and thrive in a diverse range of habitats, some extreme. They are the ancestor of the chloroplast and have long served as a simple model organism for the study plant photosynthesis. Now they are emerging as an attractive platform for production of biofuels and industrially important compounds. Accordingly, prospecting for new cyanobacterial strains is motivating numerous metagenomics projects from extreme habitats.
However, of the classical five morphological sections of cyanobacteria, only three have representative sequenced genomes. The GEBA-Cyano project, a collaboration between the JGI and the Pasteur Culture Collection (the world's largest collection of axenic cyanobacterial strains), aims at an improved understanding of the genetic basis ofthe range of cyanobacterial ecophysiology through the sequencing of the genomes of 50 phylogenetically diverse strains. The GEBA-Cyano sequencing project includes genomes from all five morphological sections, including several from the never-before-sequenced Pleurocapsales and Stigonematales sections. Collectively, the analysis of these genomes will have profound implications for our understanding of cyanobacterial carbon fixation and energy production. These data will also contribute fundamental knowledge of major cyanobacterial evolutionary transitions such as adaptations to novel environments, convergence of filamentous/multicellular morphologies, and plastid endosymbiosis. The Cyano-GEBA collection of genomes highlights the evolutionary and metabolic diversity displayed in this globally important phylum.
PI: Cheryl Kerfeld, JGI