Cyanobacteria are among the first microorganisms to have inhabited the Earth. Throughout the last few billion years, they have played a major role in shaping the Earth as the planet we live in, and they continue to play a significant role in our everyday lives. Besides being an essential source of atmospheric oxygen, marine cyanobacteria are prolific secondary metabolite producers, often despite the exceptionally small genomes. Secondary metabolites produced by these organisms are diverse and complex; these include compounds, such as pigments and fluorescent dyes, as well as biologically-active compounds with a particular interest for the pharmaceutical industry. Cyanobacteria are currently regarded as an important source of nutrients and biofuels and form an integral part of novel innovative energy-efficient designs. Being autotrophic organisms, cyanobacteria are well suited for large-scale biotechnological applications due to the low requirements for organic nutrients. Recent advances in molecular biology techniques have considerably enhanced the potential for industries to optimize the production of cyanobacteria secondary metabolites with desired functions. This manuscript reviews the environmental role of marine cyanobacteria with a particular focus on their secondary metabolites and discusses current and future developments in both the production of desired cyanobacterial metabolites and their potential uses in future innovative projects.
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