Multicellular photo-magnetotactic bacteria

Authors

  • Orr H. Shapiro,

    1. Microbial Diversity Course, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
    2. Department of Biotechnology Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er-Sheva 84105, Israel
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Roland Hatzenpichler,

    Corresponding author
    1. Microbial Diversity Course, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
    2. Department of Microbial Ecology, University of Vienna, Vienna, A-1090, Austria
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Daniel H. Buckley,

    1. Microbial Diversity Course, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
    2. Departments of Crop and Soil Sciences
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  • Stephen H. Zinder,

    1. Microbial Diversity Course, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
    2. Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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  • Victoria J. Orphan

    1. Microbial Diversity Course, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
    2. Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
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E-mail hatzenpichler@microbial-ecology.net; Tel. (+43) 1 4277 54 394; Fax (+43) 1 4277 54 389.

Summary

Multicellular magnetotactic bacteria (MMB) are unique microorganisms typically comprised of 10–40 bacterial cells arranged around a central acellular compartment. Their life cycle has no known unicellular stage and division occurs by separation of a single MMB aggregate into two identical offspring. In this study, South-seeking multicellular magnetotactic bacteria (ssMMB) were enriched from a New England salt marsh. When exposed to light, ssMMB reversed their magnetotactic behaviour to become North-seeking. The exposure time needed to generate the reversal response varied with light wavelength and intensity. Extensive exposure to light appeared to be lethal. This is the first report of a Northern hemisphere MMB displaying South-seeking behaviour and the first time a MMB is found to exhibit photo-magnetotaxis. We suggest that this mechanism enables ssMMB to optimize their location with regard to chemical gradients and light intensities, and propose a model to explain the peculiar balance between photo- and magnetotaxis.

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