Understanding the biomineralization role of magnetite-interacting components (MICs) from magnetotactic bacteria

Hila Nudelman, Yi Zong Lee, Yi Lin Hung, Sofiya Kolusheva, Alexander Upcher, Yi Chen Chen, Jih Ying Chen, Shih Che Sue, Raz Zarivach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Biomineralization is a process that takes place in all domains of life and which usually helps organisms to harden soft tissues by creating inorganic structures that facilitate their biological functions. It was shown that biominerals are under tight biological control via proteins that are involved in nucleation initiation and/or which act as structural skeletons. Magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) use iron biomineralization to create nano-magnetic particles in a specialized organelle, the magnetosome, to align to the geomagnetic field. A specific set of magnetite-associated proteins (MAPs) is involved in regulating magnetite nucleation, size, and shape. These MAPs are all predicted to contain specific 17-22 residue-long sequences involved in magnetite formation. To understand the mechanism of magnetite formation, we focused on three different MAPs, MamC, Mms6 and Mms7, and studied the predicted iron-binding sequences. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), we differentiated the recognition mode of each MAP based on ion specificity, affinity, and binding residues. The significance of critical residues in each peptide was evaluated by mutation followed by an iron co-precipitation assay. Among the peptides, MamC showed weak ion binding but created the most significant effect in enhancing magnetite particle size, indicating the potency in controlling magnetite particle shape and size. Alternatively, Mms6 and Mms7 had strong binding affinities but less effect in modulating magnetite particle size, representing their major role potentially in initiating nucleation by increasing local metal concentration. Overall, our results explain how different MAPs affect magnetite synthesis, interact with Fe2+ ions and which residues are important for the MAPs functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2480
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 23 Oct 2018


  • Biomineralization
  • Magnetite-associated proteins
  • Magnetotactic bacteria
  • MamC
  • Mms6
  • Mms7
  • Protein-mineral interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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