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Nat Commun. 2010;1:139. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1139.

High rates of photobiological H2 production by a cyanobacterium under aerobic conditions.

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Department of Biology, Washington University, St Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


Among the emerging renewable and green energy sources, biohydrogen stands out as an appealing choice. Hydrogen can be produced by certain groups of microorganisms that possess functional nitrogenase and/or bidirectional hydrogenases. In particular, the potential of photobiological hydrogen production by oxygenic photosynthetic microbes has attracted significant interest. However, nitrogenase and hydrogenase are generally oxygen sensitive, and require protective mechanisms to function in an aerobic extracellular environment. Here, we describe Cyanothece sp. ATCC 51142, a unicellular, diazotrophic cyanobacterium with the capacity to generate high levels of hydrogen under aerobic conditions. Wild-type Cyanothece 51142 can produce hydrogen at rates as high as 465 μmol per mg of chlorophyll per hour in the presence of glycerol. Hydrogen production in this strain is mediated by an efficient nitrogenase system, which can be manipulated to convert solar energy into hydrogen at rates that are several fold higher, compared with any previously described wild-type hydrogen-producing photosynthetic microbe.

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