Life with compass: diversity and biogeography of magnetotactic bacteria

Environ Microbiol. 2014 Sep;16(9):2646-58. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.12313. Epub 2013 Nov 12.


Magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) are unique in their ability to synthesize intracellular nano-sized minerals of magnetite and/or greigite magnetosomes for magnetic orientation. Thus, they provide an excellent model system to investigate mechanisms of biomineralization. MTB play important roles in bulk sedimentary magnetism and have numerous versatile applications in paleoenvironmental reconstructions, and biotechnological and biomedical fields. Significant progress has been made in recent years in describing the composition of MTB communities and distribution through innovative cultivation-dependent and -independent techniques. In this review, the most recent contributions to the field of diversity and biogeography of MTB are summarized and reviewed. Emphasis is on the novel insights into various factors/processes potentially affecting MTB community distribution. An understanding of the present-day biogeography of MTB, and the ruling parameters of their spatial distribution, will eventually help us predict MTB community shifts with environmental changes and assess their roles in global iron cycling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Magnetosomes / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Phylogeography
  • Sulfides / metabolism


  • Sulfides
  • greigite
  • Iron
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide