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Unlocking the secret of magnetic microbes

The smallest organisms to use a biological compass are magnetotactic bacteria, however mysteries remain about exactly how these bacteria create their cellular magnets. In a study published online in Genome Research, scientists have used genome sequencing to unlock new secrets about these magnetic microbes that could accelerate biotechnology and nanotechnology research.

Tadashi Matsunaga of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and colleagues recognized that by analyzing the genome of more distantly related magnetotactic bacteria, researchers may be able to clearly define the minimal gene set needed for magnetosome synthesis.

Comparing the RS-1 genome sequence to the genomes of other magnetotactic bacteria, the team determined that all magnetotactic bacteria contain three separate gene regions related to magnetosome synthesis. Surprisingly, they also found that magnetosome-related genes are very well conserved across different classes of bacteria. Matsunaga explained that this suggests that the core magentosome genes may have been established in these bacteria by several horizontal gene transfer events, rather than being passed down through a lineage.
 
 

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