Phycobiliprotein Biosynthesis in Cyanobacteria: Structure and Function of Enzymes Involved in Post-translational Modification

Wendy M. Schluchter, Gaozhong Shen, Richard M. Alvey, Avijit Biswas, Nicolle A. Saunée, Shervonda R. Williams, Crystal A. Mille, Donald A. Bryant

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Cyanobacterial phycobiliproteins are brilliantly colored due to the presence of covalently attached chromophores called bilins, linear tetrapyrroles derived from heme. For most phycobiliproteins, these post-translational modifications are catalyzed by enzymes called bilin lyases; these enzymes ensure that the appropriate bilins are attached to the correct cysteine residues with the proper stereochemistry on each phycobiliprotein subunit. Phycobiliproteins also contain a unique, post-translational modification, the methylation of a conserved asparagine (Asn) present at β-72, which occurs on the β-subunits of all phycobiliproteins. We have identified and characterized several new families of bilin lyases, which are responsible for attaching PCB to phycobiliproteins as well as the Asn methyl transferase for β-subunits in Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 and Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. All of the enzymes responsible for synthesis of holo-phycobiliproteins are now known for this cyanobacterium, and a brief discussion of each enzyme family and its role in the biosynthesis of phycobiliproteins is presented here. In addition, the first structure of a bilin lyase has recently been solved (PDB ID: 3BDR). This structure shows that the bilin lyases are most similar to the lipocalin protein structural family, which also includes the bilin-binding protein found in some butterflies.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationRecent Advances in Phototrophic Prokaryotes
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Synechococcus Elongatus
  • Nostoc Punctiforme
  • Thioether Linkage
  • Nucleomorph Genome
  • Prochlorococcus Marinus


  • Biochemistry
  • Biology

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