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Recent studies have demonstrated that photosynthetic cyanobacteria could be an excellent cell factory to produce renewable biofuels and chemicals due to their capability to utilize solar energy and CO2 as the sole energy and carbon sources. Biosynthesis of carbon-neutral biofuel alkanes with good chemical and physical properties has been proposed. However, to make the process economically feasible, one major hurdle to improve the low cell tolerance to alkanes needed to be overcome.
Towards the goal to develop robust and high-alkane-tolerant hosts, in this study, the responses of model cyanobacterial Synechocystis PCC 6803 to hexane, a representative of alkane, were investigated using a quantitative proteomics approach with iTRAQ - LC-MS/MS technologies. In total, 1,492 unique proteins were identified, representing about 42% of all predicted protein in the Synechocystis genome. Among all proteins identified, a total of 164 and 77 proteins were found up- and down-regulated, respectively. Functional annotation and KEGG pathway enrichment analyses showed that common stress responses were induced by hexane in Synechocystis. Notably, a large number of transporters and membrane-bound proteins, proteins against oxidative stress and proteins related to sulfur relay system and photosynthesis were induced, suggesting that they are possibly the major protection mechanisms against hexane toxicity.
The study provided the first comprehensive view of the complicated molecular mechanism employed by cyanobacterial model species, Synechocystis to defend against hexane stress. The study also provided a list of potential targets to engineer Synechocystis against hexane stress.