A Comparison of Methods to Measure the Magnetic Moment of Magnetotactic Bacteria through Analysis of Their Trajectories in External Magnetic Fields
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Magnetotactic bacteria possess organelles called magnetosomes that confer a magnetic moment on the cells, resulting in their partial alignment with external magnetic fields. Here we show that analysis of the trajectories of cells exposed to an external magnetic field can be used to measure the average magnetic dipole moment of a cell population in at least five different ways. We apply this analysis to movies of Magnetospirillum magneticum AMB-1 cells, and compare the values of the magnetic moment obtained in this way to that obtained by direct measurements of magnetosome dimension from electron micrographs. We find that methods relying on the viscous relaxation of the cell orientation give results comparable to that obtained by magnetosome measurements, whereas methods relying on statistical mechanics assumptions give systematically lower values of the magnetic moment. Since the observed distribution of magnetic moments in the population is not sufficient to explain this discrepancy, our results suggest that non-thermal random noise is present in the system, implying that a magnetotactic bacterial population should not be considered as similar to a paramagnetic material.
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