Magnetotactic bacteria (MB) are remarkable organisms with the ability to exploit the earth's magnetic field for navigational purposes. To do this, they build specialized compartments called magnetosomes that consist of a lipid membrane and a crystalline magnetic mineral. These organisms have the potential to serve as models for the study of compartmentalization as well as biomineralization in bacteria. Additionally, they offer the opportunity to design applications that take advantage of the particular properties of magnetosomes. In recent years, a sustained effort to identify the molecular basis of this process has resulted in a clearer understanding of the magnetosome formation and biomineralization. Here, I present an overview of MB and explore the possible molecular mechanisms of membrane remodeling, protein sorting, cytoskeletal organization, iron transport, and biomineralization that lead to the formation of a functional magnetosome organelle.
© 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.