Cyanobacteria are prokaryotic photosynthetic living organisms that inhabit our planet for over three billion years. With a worldwide distribution, they can be found in all types of environments: fresh, brackish and saltwater as well as terrestrial. Though beneficial in the development of life on earth, they also constitute a serious risk to our ecosystems since they can biologically produce harmful secondary metabolites named cyanotoxins. When studying cyanobacteria and their cyanotoxins, several methodologies have been applied with an increasing relevance to molecular methods. Therefore, the aim of this review is to describe alternative molecular methods that can be used as alternative methods for the identification of cyanobacteria. More traditional chemotaxonomic methods are discussed briefly as are the standard and somewhat dated techniques for assessing genome content for taxonomic classification schemes. The use of DNA amplification technology has been applied to the systematics and phylogeny of many bacterial groups, and the optimisation of methods for rapid identification and classification of cyanobacteria are presented. Together with novel methods developed for these photosynthetic microorganisms, the generated DNA profiles have been utilised to study cyanobacterial bloom population diversity and prediction of strain toxigenicity. Finally, the genotypes found were applied to a variety of phylogenetic analyses; trees were reconstructed and compared to the current morphological system of classification. The ecology and diversity of the cyanobacteria is discussed with respect to the derived molecular phylogenies and systematics.
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