Episode Summary

A marine protist can orient itself along magnetic fields thanks to bacterial symbionts on its surface that make magnetic nanoparticles!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Chlorocebus pygerythrus polyomavirus 3

Jesse's takeaways

Various kinds of bacteria can orient their movement along a magnetic field. These are called magnetotactic, and they use this ability to swim toward or away from the surface of their aquatic habitat, to adjust their oxygen exposure according to their preference.

No eukaryotic microbes have yet been discovered that can sense and react to magnetic fields like these prokaryotes. In this study, however, a protist was discovered that can do it via its partnership with ectosymbionts, or bacteria attached to its surface, that sense magnetism and orient their host's movement. In return, factors of the host's metabolism may feed its symbionts.

Journal Paper

Monteil CL, Vallenet D, Menguy N, Benzerara K, Barbe V, Fouteau S, Cruaud C, Floriani M, Viollier E, Adryanczyk G, Leonhardt N, Faivre D, Pignol D, López-García P, Weld RJ, Lefevre CT. 2019. Ectosymbiotic bacteria at the origin of magnetoreception in a marine protist. Nat Microbiol 4:1088–1095.

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