Expression of green fluorescent protein fused to magnetosome proteins in microaerophilic magnetotactic bacteria

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The magnetosomes of magnetotactic bacteria are prokaryotic organelles consisting of a magnetite crystal bounded by a phospholipid bilayer that contains a distinct set of proteins with various functions. Because of their unique magnetic and crystalline properties, magnetosome particles are potentially useful as magnetic nanoparticles in a number of applications, which in many cases requires the coupling of functional moieties to the magnetosome membrane. In this work, we studied the use of green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a reporter for the magnetosomal localization and expression of fusion proteins in the microaerophilic Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense by flow cytometry, fluorescence microscopy, and biochemical analysis. Although optimum conditions for high fluorescence and magnetite synthesis were mutually exclusive, we established oxygen-limited growth conditions, which supported growth, magnetite biomineralization, and GFP fluorophore formation at reasonable rates. Under these optimized conditions, we studied the subcellular localization and expression of the GFP-tagged magnetosome proteins MamC, MamF, and MamG by fluorescence microscopy and immunoblotting. While all fusions specifically localized at the magnetosome membrane, MamC-GFP displayed the strongest expression and fluorescence. MamC-GFP-tagged magnetosomes purified from cells displayed strong fluorescence, which was sensitive to detergents but stable under a wide range of temperature and salt concentrations. In summary, our data demonstrate the use of GFP as a reporter for protein localization under magnetite-forming conditions and the utility of MamC as an anchor for magnetosome-specific display of heterologous gene fusions.

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