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Antarctic Bacteria Latch Onto Ice with Molecular Fishing Rod

Researchers describe the first known bacterial adhesion molecule that binds to frozen water. 

Ben Andrew Henry

HOOKED: Marinomonas primoryensis (about 1.5μm in length without the flagellum) latches onto ice floes in the Antarctic Ocean. COURTESY MAYA BAR DOLEVThe paper
M. Bar Dolev et al., “Putting life on ice: Bacteria that bind to frozen water,” J R Soc Interface, 13:20160210, 2016.

Antarctic anomaly
In 1999, Jack Gilbert set off for Antarctica looking for a natural antifreeze. Out among the sea ice, the microbial ecologist, now based at Argonne National Laboratory, found a bacterial antifreeze protein (AFP) called MpIBP that was hundreds of times larger than other known AFPs. It was an enigma, he says. “For years, I’ve been telling people we don’t really know what this protein does.”

Fishing for ice
Scientists now have a handle on its function. Ido Braslavsky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and colleagues placed Marinomonas primoryensis, which produces MpIBP, into a microfluidic flow chamber with a copper wire...

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