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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53368. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053368. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Anomalous magnetic orientations of magnetosome chains in a magnetotactic bacterium: Magnetovibrio blakemorei strain MV-1.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


There is a good deal of published evidence that indicates that all magnetosomes within a single cell of a magnetotactic bacterium are magnetically oriented in the same direction so that they form a single magnetic dipole believed to assist navigation of the cell to optimal environments for their growth and survival. Some cells of the cultured magnetotactic bacterium Magnetovibrio blakemorei strain MV-1 are known to have relatively wide gaps between groups of magnetosomes that do not seem to interfere with the larger, overall linear arrangement of the magnetosomes along the long axis of the cell. We determined the magnetic orientation of the magnetosomes in individual cells of this bacterium using Fe 2p X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) spectra measured with scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM). We observed a significant number of cases in which there are sub-chains in a single cell, with spatial gaps between them, in which one or more sub-chains are magnetically polarized opposite to other sub-chains in the same cell. These occur with an estimated frequency of 4.0±0.2%, based on a sample size of 150 cells. We propose possible explanations for these anomalous cases which shed insight into the mechanisms of chain formation and magnetic alignment.

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