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Life (Basel). 2015 Apr 1;5(2):1218-38. doi: 10.3390/life5021218.

Role of cyanobacterial exopolysaccharides in phototrophic biofilms and in complex microbial mats.

Author information

1
Department of Agrifood Production and Environmental Sciences, University of Florence, Piazzale delle Cascine 24, 50144 Florence, Italy. f.rossi@unifi.it.
2
Department of Agrifood Production and Environmental Sciences, University of Florence, Piazzale delle Cascine 24, 50144 Florence, Italy. roberto.dephilippis@unifi.it.
3
Institute of Ecosystem Study (ISE), National Research Council (CNR), Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy. roberto.dephilippis@unifi.it.

Abstract

Exopolysaccharides (EPSs) are an important class of biopolymers with great ecological importance. In natural environments, they are a common feature of microbial biofilms, where they play key protective and structural roles. As the primary colonizers of constrained environments, such as desert soils and lithic and exposed substrates, cyanobacteria are the first contributors to the synthesis of the EPSs constituting the extracellular polymeric matrix that favors the formation of microbial associations with varying levels of complexity called biofilms. Cyanobacterial colonization represents the first step for the formation of biofilms with different levels of complexity. In all of the possible systems in which cyanobacteria are involved, the synthesis of EPSs contributes a structurally-stable and hydrated microenvironment, as well as chemical/physical protection against biotic and abiotic stress factors. Notwithstanding the important roles of cyanobacterial EPSs, many aspects related to their roles and the relative elicited biotic and abiotic factors have still to be clarified. The aim of this survey is to outline the state-of-the-art of the importance of the cyanobacterial EPS excretion, both for the producing cells and for the microbial associations in which cyanobacteria are a key component.

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