BCCM/ULC Cyanobacteria Collection


BCCM/ULC is a young public collection, currently hosting one of the largest repositories of documented (sub)polar cyanobacteria worldwide.


The BCCM/ULC collection is hosted by the Research Group of Molecular Diversity and Ecology of Cyanobacteria of the research unit InBios at the University of Liège. The host lab is active in research projects related to the cyanobacterial diversity, biogeography, and ecophysiology, with a focus on polar biotopes. The participation to field expeditions in the Antarctic and Arctic allowed for the collection of samples and isolation of cyanobacterial strains from various polar locations. Furthermore, bloom-forming and toxin-producing cyanobacterial communities in Belgian lakes are studied. A polyphasic approach workflow (i.e., morphology, 16S rRNA gene, ITS, and ecology) is applied to properly characterize the deposited or newly isolated strains, sometimes complemented by the rbcLX and rpoC1 gene sequences. Whole-genome sequencing and comparative genomics are used to study taxonomically interesting morphotypes, bioactive metabolite-producing strains, and to understand the basis of adaptations to extreme conditions.

Main research topics are:

  • Evolution of the cyanobacterial phylum;
  • Improvement of the taxonomy of the cyanobacterial phylum;
  • Phenotypic and genotypic diversity of cyanobacteria worldwide, with a focus on polar regions;
  • Community analysis of cyanobacterial mats and crusts in Antarctica;
  • Diversity of cyanobacterial bioactive metabolites;
  • Diversity and toxigenicity of bloom-forming cyanobacteria in Belgian surface waters;
  • Physiological response to stress in cyanobacteria;
  • Comparative genomics of cyanobacteria.


Scope of the biological material

The BCCM/ULC public collection aims to gather a representative portion of terrestrial, freshwater and marine cyanobacterial strains with a focus on the polar diversity with different ecological origins (limnetic mats, soil crusts, cryoconites, epiliths, endoliths, etc.). Moreover, strains deriving from the Mediterranean region, Belgian surface waters as well as strains with tropical and subtropical origins have been recently deposited to the collection.

Currently, we host more than 500 strains, which are studied by means of light microscopy and genotypic (16S rRNA gene and ITS region) analyses. A recent phylogenetic assessment revealed that BCCM/ULC hosts strains assigned to 13 out of 20 cyanobacterial orders sensu Strunecky et al (2023) including Synechococcales, Pseudanabaenales, Leptolyngbyales, Nodosilineales, Oscillatoriales, Spirulinales, Chroococcidiopsidales and Nostocales. Ongoing isolation efforts and public deposits from various geographical areas enrich progressively the variety of the deposited strains.

The strains are unicyanobacterial, but not axenic, and they are also progressively being cryo-preserved (-80°C). All publicly deposited strains are available for distribution as living cultures, or as purified genomic DNA. The public collection includes, inter alia, strains of Arthrospira platensis (ULC 444 and ULC 445) and the reference strains of several new taxa such as Plectolyngbya hodgsonii (ULC 009), Timaviella circinata (ULC 401), T. karstica (ULC 402), Cephalothrix komarekiana (ULC 718), Shackletoniella antarctica (ULC 037), Brasilonema fiorae (ULC 548), B. wernerae (ULC 573), B. santannae (ULC 544) and Petrachloros mirabilis (ULC 683).

Strains, for which genomic information has been obtained, are also available, and include among others Phormidesmis priestleyi (ULC 007 and ULC 027), Cyanobium sp. (ULC 065, 082, 084), Snowella sp. (ULC 335) and Nodularia spumigena (ULC 421). Moreover, current efforts are focused on obtaining additional high-quality genomic sequences. Lastly, the deposited strains are screened for the presence of bioactive molecules with potential pharmaceutical, biomedical and/or biotechnological applications.



Accession, control, preservation, storage and supply of cyanobacteria and related information in the frame of public deposits are ISO 9001:2015 certified.


A project by Uchrony