Cyanobacteria and algae have a potential commercial value as microbial producers of fuel or products with higher value. However, in nature their blooms also are threatening health and industrial benefits. To learn more about the viability of large algal/bacterial cultures Christiane Funk´s group at Umeå University plans to study the protease family of metacaspases and their homologues in unicellular photosynthetic organisms. Studies will be performed in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the cryptophyte Giardia theta and the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. The projects are connected to strong research environments at Umeå University.
Caspase proteases have been identified as key players in programmed cell death (PCD) of animals. Despite their importance in organ development, caspases seem to be absent in all other kingdoms (plants, fungi, bacteria), however, a broad range of structural homologues have been identified in these organisms, termed metacaspases, paracaspases and orthocaspases. In higher plants the various types of metacaspases seem not only to be involved in cell death processes, but some also to have important prosurvival and/or housekeeping roles. The functions of meta- and orthocaspases in single-cell organisms still are enigmatic. We will investigate the role of metacaspase-homologues in single-cell photosynthetic organisms (microalgae and cyanobacteria).
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