Lipid-bounded organelles are touted as a defining feature of eukaryotes–one which is absent from the architecturally primitive bacteria. However, numerous bacteria use lipid-bounded organelles to execute essential, and at times toxic, biochemical reactions. The Komeili group has pioneered the use of the magnetosome organelles of magnetotactic bacteria as a model for understanding the bacterial organelles. Magnetosomes are lipid-bilayer invaginations of the cell membrane that direct the mineralization of nanometer-sized magnetic crystals. Individual magnetosomes are arranged into one or more chains, thus allowing magnetotactic bacteria to use geomagnetic fields as a simple guide for low oxygen environments. Our group has also discovered a novel iron-accumulating lipid-bounded organelle, named the ferrosome, that is found in diverse environmental and host-associated bacteria. The study of these two organelle systems will shed light on the evolution and diversity of bacterial organelles while providing a more rational basis for their use in applied settings.

Awards and Achievements

  • National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow
  • Miller Institute Professor