Compartmentalized function through cell differentiation in filamentous cyanobacteria

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2010 Jan;8(1):39-50. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2242.


Within the wide biodiversity that is found in the bacterial world, Cyanobacteria represents a unique phylogenetic group that is responsible for a key metabolic process in the biosphere - oxygenic photosynthesis - and that includes representatives exhibiting complex morphologies. Many cyanobacteria are multicellular, growing as filaments of cells in which some cells can differentiate to carry out specialized functions. These differentiated cells include resistance and dispersal forms as well as a metabolically specialized form that is devoted to N(2) fixation, known as the heterocyst. In this Review we address cyanobacterial intercellular communication, the supracellular structure of the cyanobacterial filament and the basic principles that govern the process of heterocyst differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cyanobacteria / classification
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / physiology*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Phylogeny
  • Signal Transduction


  • Oxygen