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Environ Microbiol. 2009 May;11(5):1267-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.01854.x. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Comparative analysis of magnetosome gene clusters in magnetotactic bacteria provides further evidence for horizontal gene transfer.

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LMU Munich, Microbiology, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


The organization of magnetosome genes was analysed in all available complete or partial genomic sequences of magnetotactic bacteria (MTB), including the magnetosome island (MAI) of the magnetotactic marine vibrio strain MV-1 determined in this study. The MAI was found to differ in gene content and organization between Magnetospirillum species and strains MV-1 or MC-1. Although a similar organization of magnetosome genes was found in all MTB, distinct variations in gene order and sequence similarity were uncovered that may account for the observed diversity of biomineralization, cell biology and magnetotaxis found in various MTB. While several magnetosome genes were present in all MTB, others were confined to Magnetospirillum species, indicating that the minimal set of genes required for magnetosome biomineralization might be smaller than previously suggested. A number of novel candidate genes were implicated in magnetosome formation by gene cluster comparison. Based on phylogenetic and compositional evidence we present a model for the evolution of magnetotaxis within the Alphaproteobacteria, which suggests the independent horizontal transfer of magnetosome genes from an unknown ancestor of magnetospirilla into strains MC-1 and MV-1.

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