N2-Fixing Cyanobacteria: Ecology and Biotechnological Applications

Kirsten Ruth Heimann, Samuel Cirés

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Cyanobacteria were the first organisms capable of oxygenic photosynthesis on Earth. Due to this trait and their wide distribution in freshwater and marine waters, they are important primary producers in aquatic environments. Some cyanobacteria are capable of atmospheric nitrogen gas (N2) fixation, allowing them to sustain growth under nitrogen-limiting conditions. This chapter provides an introduction to the physiology and genetics underpinning N2 fixation, the different modes of N2 fixation realized in different orders, and the phylogeny of nif genes, which encode components of the nitrogenase complex. We provide a brief overview of freshwater species and the important marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, then focus on the biological applications of N2-fixing cyanobacteria for wastewater metal remediation, biofertilizers, bioenergy production (e.g., hydrogen gas, which is a byproduct of N2 fixation), and other high-value products (e.g., pigments such as phycocyanin and phycoerythrin as antioxidants, exopolysaccharide-derived cosmetics, ultraviolet sunscreens).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Marine Microalgae
Subtitle of host publicationBiotechnology Advances
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780128011249
ISBN (Print)9780128007761
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Bioproducts
  • Nif genes
  • Nitrogenase
  • Trichodesmium
  • Wastewater remediation


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