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Unicellular cyanobacteria of the genus Synechococcus are among the most abundant members of the picoplankton in the open ocean, and their contribution to primary production is considerable. While several isolates have been used for physiological, biochemical, and molecular studies of their unique adaptations to the marine environment, it has become necessary to develop molecular genetic methods for one or more model open-ocean cyanobacteria in order for studies of these organisms and their unique properties to progress. A number of molecular tools for the genetic manipulation of Synechococcus sp. strains WH7803, WH8102, and WH8103 have been developed. These include a plating technique for obtaining isolated colonies at high efficiencies and a conjugation method for introducing both a replicative vector and a suicide vector. In addition, a method for the generation of random, tagged chromosomal insertions (N. Dolganov and A. R. Grossman, J. Bacteriol. 175:7644-7651, 1993; N. F. Tsinoremas, A. K. Kutach, C. A. Strayer, and S. S. Golden, J. Bacteriol. 176:6764-6768, 1994) has been applied to these organisms.