Postprint version. Published in Biophysical Journal, Volume 73, Issue 2, August 1, 1997, pages 994-1000. Copyright © 1997Elsevier. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(97)78132-3.
Magnetotactic cocci swim persistently along local magnetic field lines in a preferred direction that corresponds to downward migration along geomagnetic field lines. Recently, high cell concentrations of magnetotactic cocci have been found in the water columns of chemically stratified, marine and brackish habitats, and not always in the sediments, as would be expected for persistent, downward-migrating bacteria. Here we report that cells of a pure culture of a marine magnetotactic coccus, designated strain MC-1, formed microaerophilic bands in capillary tubes and used aerotaxis to migrate to a preferred oxygen concentration in an oxygen gradient. Cells were able to swim in either direction along the local magnetic field and used magnetotaxis in conjunction with aerotaxis, i.e., magnetically assisted aerotaxis, or magneto-aerotaxis, to more efficiently migrate to and maintain position at their preferred oxygen concentration. Cells of strain MC-1 had a novel, aerotactic sensory mechanism that appeared to function as a two-way switch, rather than the temporal sensory mechanism used by other bacteria, including Magnetospirillum megnetotacticum, in aerotaxis. The cells also exhibited a response to short-wavelength light (< or = 500 nm), which caused them to swim persistently parallel to the magnetic field during illumination.