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Environ Microbiol. 2012 Feb;14(2):405-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02590.x. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

A novel genus of multicellular magnetotactic prokaryotes from the Yellow Sea.

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Key Laboratory of Marine Ecology & Environmental Sciences, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao, China.


Multicellular magnetotactic prokaryotes (MMPs) are a group of magnetotactic microorganisms composed of 10-40 Gram-negative cells. Currently, all the identified MMPs show a spherical morphology and synthesize mainly iron sulfide magnetosomes. In this study, we report a novel genus of MMPs with peculiar ellipsoidal morphology and iron oxide magnetosomes, which were discovered in intertidal sediment of the Yellow Sea in China. Optical and fluorescence microscopy revealed that this organism was ~10 × 8 µm in size and composed of ~40 cells enveloped by an outer layer. Scanning electron microscopy showed that the cells were arranged in 4-6 interlaced circles. Bullet-shaped magnetite magnetosomes were organized in chains roughly parallel to the long axis of the ellipsoidal MMPs when analysed by transmission electron microscopy. These MMPs displayed special escape motility, i.e. swimming rapidly from the edge to the centre of the droplet and then slowly back to the edge. In addition, they exhibited negative phototaxis. Light microscopy observations showed that the ellipsoidal MMPs reproduced by division along the body long axis. Both analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequence and fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed the ellipsoidal MMPs as a new genus of the Deltaproteobacteria. In summary, this novel genus of MMPs exhibit unique morphology, peculiar division process and distinct phylogenetic affiliation compared with the other MMPs.

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