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IV - III - The Pasteur Culture Collection of Cyanobacteria (PCC)

Photo groupe Cyano2
The Pasteur Culture Collection of Cyanobacteria is a member of the CRBIP since April 2006. Its database accessible via the CRBIP website is still under construction. Consequently, the information presently available is incomplete and covers only part of the cyanobacterial strains deposited in the PCC.


The PCC has its roots in the Department of Bacteriology of the University of California at Berkeley, California, U.S.A., where Roger Y. Stanier, having long recognized the prokaryotic nature of "blue-green algae", agreed that Mary Mennes Allen should study this group of organisms for her doctoral thesis. Thanks to her improvements of growth conditions on solid medium (Allen, 1968), largely based on the early pioneering work of Gerloff et al. (1950), M. B. Allen (1952), Kratz & Myers (1955), Hughes et al. (1958) and Van Baalen (1962), the first small collection of axenic strains was established in 1968, their physiological and genetic properties being described several years later (Stanier et al., 1971).

It was fortunate that, with his move to the Institut Pasteur from Berkeley in 1971, Roger Y. Stanier brought with him the Berkeley Culture Collection, and encouraged his small team (Josette Deruelles, Rosmarie Rippka and John B. Waterbury) to isolate, purify and characterize many more strains of this group of photosynthetic prokaryotes, for which he (Stanier, 1974) proposed the name "cyanobacteria". A detailed description of about 170 cyanobacterial strains in axenic cultures was given by Rippka et al. (1979).

Since that time the number of axenic strains in the PCC has increased to more than 750, and now represents a culture collection of a large number of genera and species isolated from a wide variety of habitats. This achievement was only possible due to the skill and patience of many colleagues in the Unité de Physiologie Microbienne, since 2001 called Unité des Cyanobactéries, at the Institut Pasteur. In addition, many strains have been supplied, either as impure or axenic isolates, by investigators from other laboratories in all parts of the world. It is not possible in this introduction to thank all of these collaborators individually. However, their names are cited, and their contributions accredited under the heading "strain histories".

This temporary PCC database of the CRBIP website, summarizes the history of all cyanobacterial isolates deposited in the PCC prior to 1993 and takes into account some recent nomenclatural changes with respect to the PCC catalogue published in 1992 (Rippka & Herdman, 1992). More recent accessions not mentioned in this website but cited in the literature, are available upon special request. 

The Pasteur Culture Collection of Cyanobacteria (PCC) is supported by the Institut Pasteur, which has provided the space and facilities for the PCC since 1971, and by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (URA 2172).

The axenic strains of the PCC are maintained in the Unité des Cyanobactéries. The PCC is one of the specialized Culture Collections of the Institut Pasteur.

The PCC is a member of the World Federation for Culture Collections and is registered with the World Data Centre for Microorganisms under number WDCM481. 

In compliance with the instructions of the ECCO (European Culture Collections’ Organization) the PCC ensures the following services: 

• the maintenance of axenic cyanobacterial strains in accordance with established criteria of quality; 

• supply of cyanobacterial strains without restrictions of access other than those imposed by legal and ethical requirements; 

• continuous enlargement of the Culture Collection by addition of new strains; 

• publication of a catalogue listing the available strains; 

• information concerning the cultures ; 

The PCC is aided in these tasks by the CNCM, which assures the administration, packing and dispatch of the strains.

Staff members of the PCC

Muriel Gugger
(Research scientistand and Curator) 

Bénédicte Bénédic (Secretary) 

Thierry Laurent - Thérèse Coursin (technical staff)

Staff members of the CNCM

For information on the taxonomy of cyanobacteria, the CRBIP website is invited to consult the second edition of Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, Volume One: The Archaea and the Deeply Branching and Phototrophic Bacteria (2001). D.R. Boone, R.W. Castenholz and G.M. Garrity (Eds.). Springer, New-York.


Description and properties of cyanobacterial strains

The information given in the description of each strain is presented in the following order.

The strain history

The information given for each strain is as follows. The strain number is immediately followed by the name of the person who purified and deposited the strain in an axenic state in the PCC. Strains received in an impure state are indicated by << (I), followed by the name of the depositor. If the depositor received the strain from elsewhere, the primary source of the axenic isolate is indicated by << (P). This information is followed wherever possible by a further description of the history of the strain prior to its entry into the PCC.

Habitat, location and year of sampling

These indications are specified when they are known.

Coidentity and Culture Collections

Certain strains of the PCC are also available from other major culture collections. These duplicate isolates ("co-identical") are cited by the respective collection acronym(s) and corresponding strain number(s). If such equivalent strains carry generic and specific names different to those appended in the PCC, this information is provided. References appropriate for such strains are also given, even if they refer to older editions of culture collection catalogues which described strains that were subsequently lost from these collections or have been renamed. 

Although some of the culture collections indicate the state of purity of their strains, this property being subject to change, this information is not provided on the CRBIP website.

Taxonomic comments

Some indications on the taxonomy of the strains of the PCC are indicated in this section.


Comments concerning, for example, aspects of taxonomy, physiology or the history of the strains are cited under this heading.


Only the major references are indicated.

Growth conditions

The medium employed for the cultivation of each strain is given. Most strains are maintained on agar slants at 22°C, or 37°C for the thermophilic strains, even if their optimum for growth may be at a higher temperature. For planktonic cyanobacteria, the cultures are grown in liquid media. The cultures generally receive a photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of about 3 - 5 µmol quanta m-2 s-1 (measured with a LICOR LI-185B quantum/radiometer/photometer equipped with a LI-190SB quantum sensor), provided by Osram Universal White fluorescent tubes over a light/dark regime of 14 h/10 h.

Properties of the strains

Information concerning the strain properties (such as cell size, chromatic adaptation, toxin production, motility, salt tolerance, heterotrophic potential, nitrogen fixation, cyanophage sensitivity, mean DNA base composition and genome size) have not yet been entered in the PCC database of the CRBIP website. If they were known or applicable prior to 1991, they are summarized in the first catalogue of the PCC (Rippka & Herdman, 1992), in which data from the following major references, grouped by subject, were compiled. 

Cell size, structural and developmental features: Stanier et al. (1971); Rippka et al. (1974, 1979); Waterbury & Stanier (1977; 1978); Rippka & Cohen-Bazire (1983); Guglielmi et al. (1984). 

Pigments and complementary chromatic adaptation: Tandeau de Marsac (1977); Bryant (1982). 

Mean DNA base composition and genome size: Stanier et al. (1971); Herdman et al. (1979a, 1979b); Stam (1980); Lachance (1981); Wilmotte & Stam (1984). 

Salt requirements or tolerance: Stanier et al. (1971); Rippka et al. 1979; Waterbury & Stanier (1977; 1978); Reed et al. (1984); Mackay et al. (1984). 

Host to cyanophages: Safferman & Morris, 1963; 1964; Rippka & Cohen-Bazire (1983) and references therein. 

Type strains: Only Prochlorothrix hollandica strain PCC 9006T (Burger-Wiersma et al.,1986; 1989) and Prochlorococcus marinus subsp. pastoris strain PCC 9511T (Rippka et al., 2000) have validly been published under the Bacteriological Code of Nomenclature. 

References strains: Strains previously (Rippka et al., 1979) designated as reference strains of genera are indicated at the end of the respective strain description. If subsequently another reference strain was chosen or nomenclatural changes proposed (Waterbury & Rippka, 1989; Rippka & Herdman, 1992; Herdman et al., 2001; Rippka et al., 2001a; Rippka et al., 2001b, Herdman et al. 2005), the more current assignments are also mentioned.

The following symbols are used in the catalogue data sheet

Strain history
Habitat, location and year of isolation
Corresponding numbers in other collections
Properties of the strain
Particular features of the strain
Taxonomic comments
Growth conditions

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