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Microsc Res Tech. 1994 Apr 1;27(5):389-401.

Electron microscopic studies of magnetosomes in magnetotactic bacteria.

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Department of Anaerobic Microbiology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24061.


Electron microscopic studies on magnetosomes in magnetotactic bacteria have revealed much information on their composition, structure, and even the formation of their mineral phase. The mineral phases of the magnetosomes are of two general types: iron oxides and iron sulfides. Iron oxide-type magnetosomes contain particles of the ferrimagnetic mineral magnetite (Fe3O4) while the iron sulfide-type contain ferrimagnetic greigite (Fe3S4), greigite and non-magnetic pyrite (FeS2), or possibly ferrimagnetic pyrrhotite (Fe7S8). Regardless of their composition, the crystalline particles in magnetosomes have a narrow size range: approximately 35 to 120 nm. Magnetite crystals in this size range are single-magnetic-domains and confer a permanent magnetic dipole moment to the cell. The single-domain size range for greigite is not known but is probably similar to that for magnetite. The morphology of the particles in the bacterial magnetosomes appears to be species-specific. Morphologies of magnetite crystals in different species of magnetotactic bacteria include cubo-octahedra, parallelepipedal (truncated hexahedral or octahedral prisms), and tooth- or bullet-shaped (anisotropic). Morphologies of greigite particles include cubo-octahedra and rectangular prismatic. The greigite-pyrite particles are generally pleomorphic with no consistent crystalline morphology. A membrane has been shown to surround the particles in some organisms and may be involved in the formation of the crystalline phase while also providing physical constraints on the size and the shape of the crystal. These results clearly indicate that the biomineralization process involved in the bacterial magnetosome, a good example of a self-assembled structure on a nanometer scale, is highly controlled by the organism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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