BCCM/ULC Cyanobacteria Collection


BCCM/ULC is a small and dedicated public collection, currently containing one of the largest collections of documented (sub)polar cyanobacteria worldwide.


The BCCM/ULC collection is hosted by the research unit InBios - Centre for Protein Engineering (the Unit) of the University of Liège. The host Unit is very active in research projects concerning the cyanobacterial diversity, biogeography, and ecophysiology, with a focus on polar biotopes. The used approach is polyphasic, including the isolation of strains and culture-independent methods (Amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, metagenomics, comparative genomics). The participation to field expeditions in the Antarctic and Arctic has enabled to collect samples from many polar locations. Furthermore, bloom-forming and toxin-producing cyanobacterial communities in Belgian lakes are studied. Moreover, taxonomic research is carried out by the host Unit to improve the classification of the cyanobacterial phylum. It is based on a polyphasic approach combining the morphological and molecular characterizations of the strains.

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;
  • Biogeography of cyanobacterial taxa;
  • Diversity of secondary metabolites in cyanobacteria;
  • Diversity and toxigenicity of bloom-forming cyanobacteria in Belgian surface waters;
  • Physiological response to stress in 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, endoliths…). Currently, we possess more than 200 strains, which are characterized by phenotypic (morphology based on microscopic observations) and genotypic (16S rRNA and ITS sequences) analyses. This identification showed that the strains of BCCM/ULC belong to the orders Synechococcales, Oscillatoriales, Pleurocapsales, Chroococcidiopsidales and Nostocales. The strains are unicyanobacterial, but not axenic, and they are also progressively being cryo-preserved (-80°C). They are available for distribution as living cultures, or as purified genomic DNA.

Ongoing research and public deposits from various geographical areas enrich progressively the variety of proposed strains. The public collection includes, among others, also strains of Arthrospira platensis (ULC 444 and ULC 445) and the reference strains of the new taxa Plectolyngbya hodgsonii (ULC 009), Timaviella circinata (ULC 401), Cephalothrix komarekiana (ULC 718), Shackletoniella (ULC 037). Strains, for which genomic information was published, are also available, and include the strains Phormidesmis priestleyi (ULC 007) and Nodularia spumigena (ULC 421). Moreover, current efforts are performed in the collection to obtain more genome sequences.



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