The swimming orientation of multicellular magnetotactic prokaryotes and uncultured magnetotactic cocci in magnetic fields similar to the geomagnetic field reveals differences in magnetotaxis between them

Roger Duarte de Melo, Pedro Leão, Fernanda Abreu, Daniel Acosta-Avalos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Magnetotactic bacteria have intracellular chains of magnetic nanoparticles, conferring to their cellular body a magnetic moment that permits the alignment of their swimming trajectories to the geomagnetic field lines. That property is known as magnetotaxis and makes them suitable for the study of bacterial motion. The present paper studies the swimming trajectories of uncultured magnetotactic cocci and of the multicellular magnetotactic prokaryote 'Candidatus Magnetoglobus multicellularis' exposed to magnetic fields lower than 80 μT. It was assumed that the trajectories are cylindrical helixes and the axial velocity, the helix radius, the frequency and the orientation of the trajectories relative to the applied magnetic field were determined from the experimental trajectories. The results show the paramagnetic model applies well to magnetotactic cocci but not to 'Ca. M. multicellularis' in the low magnetic field regime analyzed. Magnetotactic cocci orient their trajectories as predicted by classical magnetotaxis but in general 'Ca. M. multicellularis' does not swim following the magnetic field direction, meaning that for it the inversion in the magnetic field direction represents a stimulus but the selection of the swimming direction depends on other cues or even on other mechanisms for magnetic field detection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-209
Number of pages13
JournalAntonie van Leeuwenhoek
Issue number2
Early online date18-Sep-2019
Publication statusPublished - 1-Feb-2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial swimming
  • Cylindrical helix swimming trajectory
  • Magnetotactic bacteria
  • Magnetotaxis
  • Taxis/tactic responses

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