Localized iron accumulation precedes nucleation and growth of magnetite crystals in magnetotactic bacteria

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Scientific Reports






Many magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) biomineralize magnetite crystals that nucleate and grow inside intracellular membranous vesicles that originate from invaginations of the cytoplasmic membrane. The crystals together with their surrounding membranes are referred to magnetosomes. Magnetosome magnetite crystals nucleate and grow using iron transported inside the vesicle by specific proteins. Here we address the question: can iron transported inside MTB for the production of magnetite crystals be spatially mapped using electron microscopy? Cultured and uncultured MTB from brackish and freshwater lagoons were studied using analytical transmission electron microscopy in an attempt to answer this question. Scanning transmission electron microscopy was used at sub-nanometric resolution to determine the distribution of elements by implementing high sensitivity energy dispersive X-ray (EDS) mapping and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS). EDS mapping showed that magnetosomes are enmeshed in a magnetosomal matrix in which iron accumulates close to the magnetosome forming a continuous layer visually appearing as a corona. EELS, obtained at high spatial resolution, confirmed that iron was present close to and inside the lipid bilayer magnetosome membrane. This study provides important clues to magnetite formation in MTB through the discovery of a mechanism where iron ions accumulate prior to magnetite biomineralization. © 2017 The Author(s).



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