Insight on thermal stability of magnetite magnetosomes: implications for the fossil record and biotechnology

Jefferson Cypriano, Mounib Bahri, Kassioge Dembele, Walid Baaziz, Pedro Leao, Dennis A. Bazylinski, Fernanda Abreu, Ovidiu Ersen, Marcos Farina, Jacques Werckmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Magnetosomes are intracellular magnetic nanocrystals composed of magnetite (Fe3O4) or greigite (Fe3S4), enveloped by a lipid bilayer membrane, produced by magnetotactic bacteria. Because of the stability of these structures in certain environments after cell death and lysis, magnetosome magnetite crystals contribute to the magnetization of sediments as well as providing a fossil record of ancient microbial ecosystems. The persistence or changes of the chemical and magnetic features of magnetosomes under certain conditions in different environments are important factors in biotechnology and paleomagnetism. Here we evaluated the thermal stability of magnetosomes in a temperature range between 150 and 500 °C subjected to oxidizing conditions by using in situ scanning transmission electron microscopy. Results showed that magnetosomes are stable and structurally and chemically unaffected at temperatures up to 300 °C. Interestingly, the membrane of magnetosomes was still observable after heating the samples to 300 °C. When heated between 300 °C and 500 °C cavity formation in the crystals was observed most probably associated to the partial transformation of magnetite into maghemite due to the Kirkendall effect at the nanoscale. This study provides some insight into the stability of magnetosomes in specific environments over geological periods and offers novel tools to investigate biogenic nanomaterials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6706
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1-Dec-2020
Externally publishedYes


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