Current view of iron biomineralization in magnetotactic bacteria

Shirel Ben-Shimon, Daniel Stein, Raz Zarivach

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Biomineralization is the process of mineral formation by living organisms. One notable example of these organisms is magnetotactic bacteria (MTB). MTB are Gram-negative bacteria that can biomineralize iron into magnetic nanoparticles. This ability allows these aquatic microorganisms to orient themselves according to the geomagnetic field. The biomineralization process takes place in a specialized sub-cellular membranous organelle, the magnetosome. The magnetosome contains a defined set of magnetosome-associated proteins (MAPs) that controls the biomineralization environment, including iron concentration, redox, and pH. Magnetite formation is subjected to a tight regulation within the magnetosome that affects the nanoparticle nucleation, size, and shape, leading to well-defined magnetic properties. The formed magnetite nanoparticles have unique characteristics of a stable, single magnetic domain with narrow size distribution and high crystalline structures, which turned MTB into the subject of interest in multidisciplinary research. This graphical review provides a current overview of iron biomineralization in magnetotactic bacteria, focusing on Alphaproteobacteria. To better understand this complex mechanism, we present the four main steps and the main MAPs participating in the process of magnetosome formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100052
JournalJournal of Structural Biology: X
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Biomineralization
  • Iron oxides
  • Magnetosome
  • Magnetotactic bacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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