• sea ice;
  • bacterium;
  • ice-binding protein;
  • Colwellia


An Antarctic sea ice bacterium of the Gram-negative genus Colwellia, strain SLW05, produces an extracellular substance that changes the morphology of growing ice. The active substance was identified as a ∼25-kDa protein that was purified through its affinity for ice. The full gene sequence was determined and was found to encode a 253-amino acid protein with a calculated molecular mass of 26 350 Da. The predicted amino acid sequence is similar to predicted sequences of ice-binding proteins recently found in two species of sea ice diatoms and a species of snow mold. A recombinant ice-binding protein showed ice-binding activity and ice recrystallization inhibition activity. The protein is much smaller than bacterial ice-nucleating proteins and antifreeze proteins that have been previously described. The function of the protein is unknown but it may act as an ice recrystallization inhibitor to protect membranes in the frozen state.