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      Role of Cyanobacterial Exopolysaccharides in Phototrophic Biofilms and in Complex Microbial Mats


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          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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          Water pulses and biogeochemical cycles in arid and semiarid ecosystems.

          The episodic nature of water availability in arid and semiarid ecosystems has significant consequences on belowground carbon and nutrient cycling. Pulsed water events directly control belowground processes through soil wet-dry cycles. Rapid soil microbial response to incident moisture availability often results in almost instantaneous C and N mineralization, followed by shifts in C/N of microbially available substrate, and an offset in the balance between nutrient immobilization and mineralization. Nitrogen inputs from biological soil crusts are also highly sensitive to pulsed rain events, and nitrogen losses, particularly gaseous losses due to denitrification and nitrate leaching, are tightly linked to pulses of water availability. The magnitude of the effect of water pulses on carbon and nutrient pools, however, depends on the distribution of resource availability and soil organisms, both of which are strongly affected by the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of vegetation cover, topographic position and soil texture. The 'inverse texture hypothesis' for net primary production in water-limited ecosystems suggests that coarse-textured soils have higher NPP than fine-textured soils in very arid zones due to reduced evaporative losses, while NPP is greater in fine-textured soils in higher rainfall ecosystems due to increased water-holding capacity. With respect to belowground processes, fine-textured soils tend to have higher water-holding capacity and labile C and N pools than coarse-textured soils, and often show a much greater flush of N mineralization. The result of the interaction of texture and pulsed rainfall events suggests a corollary hypothesis for nutrient turnover in arid and semiarid ecosystems with a linear increase of N mineralization in coarse-textured soils, but a saturating response for fine-textured soils due to the importance of soil C and N pools. Seasonal distribution of water pulses can lead to the accumulation of mineral N in the dry season, decoupling resource supply and microbial and plant demand, and resulting in increased losses via other pathways and reduction in overall soil nutrient pools. The asynchrony of resource availability, particularly nitrogen versus water due to pulsed water events, may be central to understanding the consequences for ecosystem nutrient retention and long-term effects on carbon and nutrient pools. Finally, global change effects due to changes in the nature and size of pulsed water events and increased asynchrony of water availability and growing season will likely have impacts on biogeochemical cycling in water-limited ecosystems.
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            Microbial colonization and controls in dryland systems.

            Drylands constitute the most extensive terrestrial biome, covering more than one-third of the Earth's continental surface. In these environments, stress limits animal and plant life, so life forms that can survive desiccation and then resume growth following subsequent wetting assume the foremost role in ecosystem processes. In this Review, we describe how these organisms assemble in unique soil- and rock-surface communities to form a thin veneer of mostly microbial biomass across hot and cold deserts. These communities mediate inputs and outputs of gases, nutrients and water from desert surfaces, as well as regulating weathering, soil stability, and hydrological and nutrient cycles. The magnitude of regional and global desert-related environmental impacts is affected by these surface communities; here, we also discuss the challenges for incorporating the consideration of these communities and their effects into the management of dryland resources.
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              UV-B-induced synthesis of photoprotective pigments and extracellular polysaccharides in the terrestrial cyanobacterium Nostoc commune.

              Liquid cultures of the terrestrial cyanobacterium Nostoc commune derived from field material were treated with artificial UV-B and UV-A irradiation. We studied the induction of various pigments which are though to provide protection against damaging UV-B irradiation. First, UV-B irradiation induced an increase in carotenoids, especially echinenone and myxoxanthophyll, but did not influence production of chlorophyll a. Second, an increase of an extracellular, water-soluble UV-A/B-absorbing mycosporine occurred, which was associated with extracellular glycan synthesis. Finally, synthesis of scytonemin, a lipid-soluble, extracellular pigment known to function as a UV-A sunscreen, was observed. After long-time exposure, the UV-B effect on carotenoid and scytonemin synthesis ceased whereas the mycosporine content remained constantly high. The UV-B sunscreen mycosporine is exclusively induced by UV-B (< 315 nm). The UV-A sunscreen scytonemin is induced only slightly by UV-B (< 315 nm), very strongly by near UV-A (350 to 400 nm), and not at all by far UV-A (320 to 350 nm). These results may indicate that the syntheses of these UV sunscreens are triggered by different UV photoreceptors.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Role: Academic Editor
                Life (Basel)
                Life (Basel)
                01 April 2015
                June 2015
                : 5
                : 2
                : 1218-1238
                [1 ]Department of Agrifood Production and Environmental Sciences, University of Florence, Piazzale delle Cascine 24, 50144 Florence, Italy; E-Mail: f.rossi@ 123456unifi.it
                [2 ]Institute of Ecosystem Study (ISE), National Research Council (CNR), Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy
                Author notes
                [* ]Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: roberto.dephilippis@ 123456unifi.it ; Tel.: +39-055-2755910.
                © 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 18 December 2014
                : 26 March 2015

                cyanobacteria,exopolysaccharides,biofilms,biological soil crusts,lithic surfaces


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