Magnetic properties of magnetotactic bacteria

B. M. Moskowitz, R. B. Frankel, P. J. Flanders, R. P. Blakemore, B. B. Schwartz

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This paper reports on the magnetic properties of magnetosomes in the freshwater magnetotactic bacterium Aquaspirillum magnetotacticum. The magnetosomes are well crystallized particles of magnetite with dimensions of 40 to 50 nm, which are arranged within the cells in a single linear chain and are within the single-magnetic-domain (SD) size range for magnetite. A variety of magnetic properties have been measured for two samples of dispersions of freeze-dried cells consisting of (1) whole cells (M-1) and (2) magnetosomes chains separated from cells (M-2). An important result is that the acquisition and demagnetization of various type of remanent magnetizations are markedly different for the two samples and suggest that remanence is substantially affected by magnetostatic interactions. Interactions are likely to be much more important in M-2 because the extracted magnetosome chains are no longer separated from one another by the cell membrane and cytoplasm. Other experimental data for whole cells agree with predictions based on the chain of spheres model for magnetization reversal. This model is consistent with the unique linear arrangement of equidimensional particles in A. magnetotacticum. The magnetic properties of bacterial and synthetic magnetites are compared and the paleomagnetic implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-288
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1988

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partially supported by DARPA through BiomagnetechC orporation.W e thank Y. Gorby and N. Blakemore for sample preparation, C.R. Rosenblatt for birefringence measurementasn d Naoma Doherty for remanence measurementsR. BF was partially supported by the Office of Naval Research.


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