On the mineral core of ferritin-like proteins: structural and magnetic characterization†
It is generally accepted that the mineral core synthesized by ferritin-like proteins consists of a ferric oxy-hydroxide mineral similar to ferrihydrite in the case of horse spleen ferritin (HoSF) and an oxy-hydroxide-phosphate phase in plant and prokaryotic ferritins. The structure reflects a dynamic process of deposition and dissolution, influenced by different biological, chemical and physical variables. In this work we shed light on this matter by combining a structural (High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy (HRTEM) and Fe K-edge X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS)) and a magnetic study of the mineral core biomineralized by horse spleen ferritin (HoSF) and three prokaryotic ferritin-like proteins: bacterial ferritin (FtnA) and bacterioferritin (Bfr) from Escherichia coli and archaeal ferritin (PfFtn) from Pyrococcus furiosus. The prokaryotic ferritin-like proteins have been studied under native conditions and inside the cells for the sake of preserving their natural attributes. They share with HoSF a nanocrystalline structure rather than an amorphous one as has been frequently reported. However, the presence of phosphorus changes drastically the short-range order and magnetic response of the prokaryotic cores with respect to HoSF. The superparamagnetism observed in HoSF is absent in the prokaryotic proteins, which show a pure atomic-like paramagnetic behaviour attributed to phosphorus breaking the Fe–Fe exchange interaction.