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Eder, Stephan H. K.; Gigler, Alexander M.; Hanzlik, Marianne and Winklhofer, Michael (2014): Sub-Micrometer-Scale Mapping of Magnetite Crystals and Sulfur Globules in Magnetotactic Bacteria Using Confocal Raman Micro-Spectrometry.
In: PLOS ONE 9(9), e107356 [PDF, 952kB]


The ferrimagnetic mineral magnetite Fe3O4 is biomineralized by magnetotactic microorganisms and a diverse range of animals. Here we demonstrate that confocal Raman microscopy can be used to visualize chains of magnetite crystals in magnetotactic bacteria, even though magnetite is a poor Raman scatterer and in bacteria occurs in typical grain sizes of only 35-120 nm, well below the diffraction-limited optical resolution. When using long integration times together with low laser power (<0.25 mW) to prevent laser induced damage of magnetite, we can identify and map magnetite by its characteristic Raman spectrum (303, 535, 665 cm(-1)) against a large autofluorescence background in our natural magnetotactic bacteria samples. While greigite (cubic Fe3S4; Raman lines of 253 and 351 cm(-1)) is often found in the Deltaproteobacteria class, it is not present in our samples. In intracellular sulfur globules of Candidatus Magnetobacterium bavaricum (Nitrospirae), we identified the sole presence of cyclo-octasulfur (S-8: 151, 219, 467 cm(-1)), using green (532 nm), red (638 nm) and near-infrared excitation (785 nm). The Raman-spectra of phosphorous-rich intracellular accumulations point to orthophosphate in magnetic vibrios and to polyphosphate in magnetic cocci. Under green excitation, the cell envelopes are dominated by the resonant Raman lines of the heme cofactor of the b or c-type cytochrome, which can be used as a strong marker for label-free live-cell imaging of bacterial cytoplasmic membranes, as well as an indicator for the redox state.

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