Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Wendy Schluchter

Second Advisor

Zhengchang Liu

Third Advisor

Steven Rick

Fourth Advisor

David Podgorski


Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic prokaryotes that able to produce oxygen. They have light harvesting complexes called phycobilisomes (PBS). PBS are generally composed of an allophycocyanin core with phycocyanin and phycoerythrin rods connected to the core. PBS are able to efficiently harvest light energy from different wavelengths of visible light due to the evolution of PBP. Phycoerythrin has five chromophores that are attached to six cysteine residues and is essential for efficient green light capture and transfer of energy for use in photosynthesis. The attachment of these chromophores to PBP is facilitated by enzymes known as bilin lyases.

In this study, we characterize and explore the role of enzymes that are involved in the biosynthesis of phycoerythrin in cyanobacteria. Biochemical and molecular techniques were used in the characterization of these proteins to gain a better understanding of their roles in the post-translational modification of phycobiliprotein. In F. diplosipohon, the lyase activity of CpeT was characterized and studied using a heterologous, co-expression system in E. coli. It was determined that CpeT was able to ligate PEB to Cys-165 of CpeB in the presence of CpeZ, a chaperone-like protein.

Next, the roles of three proteins, MpeY from RS9916 and MpeQ and MpeW from A15-62, were analyzed using a combination of gene-interruption mutants and recombinant protein expression techniques. The absence of mpeY resulted in the reduction of PEB chromophorylation of MpeA in green light conditions, and recombinant protein coexpression confirmed that MpeY was responsible for PEB attachment to Cys-83 of MpeA. The interruption of mpeQ in A15-62 resulted in a reduced PUB phenotype in MpeA in blue light. Recombinant protein expressions revealed that MpeQ was a lyase-isomerase responsible for the attachment of PUB to Cys-83 of MpeA.

Two regulatory proteins located in two conserved configurations of a genomic island present in species that are able to change their phycobilin content in response to different light environments, known as Type-IV chromatic acclimation (CA4), were investigated. FciA and FciB from RS9916 were studied using gene interruption mutants from RS9916 and they were found to be responsible for the CA4 response in CA4-A containing species of Synechococcus.


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