What Biogenic Minerals Tell Us

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Science  12 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5664, pp. 1618-1619
DOI: 10.1126/science.1095177

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Under the right conditions, living cells such as bacteria can create inorganic minerals. Several studies have shown that this biomineralization takes place at the cell wall or just inside cells. How and why these minerals are formed, however, is unclear. In her Perspective, Fortin discusses work reported by Chan et al. on the formation of iron oxides by bacteria in a flooded mineshaft. The researchers used a variety of x-ray spectroscopic tools to understand how polymers secreted by the bacteria were able to act as a template for mineral formation. The mineral formation may aid in bacterial survival and may also enhance the cells' energy-producing capability.