Ice-nucleating bacteria control the order and dynamics of interfacial water

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Science Advances  22 Apr 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 4, e1501630
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501630


Ice-nucleating organisms play important roles in the environment. With their ability to induce ice formation at temperatures just below the ice melting point, bacteria such as Pseudomonas syringae attack plants through frost damage using specialized ice-nucleating proteins. Besides the impact on agriculture and microbial ecology, airborne P. syringae can affect atmospheric glaciation processes, with consequences for cloud evolution, precipitation, and climate. Biogenic ice nucleation is also relevant for artificial snow production and for biomimetic materials for controlled interfacial freezing. We use interface-specific sum frequency generation (SFG) spectroscopy to show that hydrogen bonding at the water-bacteria contact imposes structural ordering on the adjacent water network. Experimental SFG data and molecular dynamics simulations demonstrate that ice-active sites within P. syringae feature unique hydrophilic-hydrophobic patterns to enhance ice nucleation. The freezing transition is further facilitated by the highly effective removal of latent heat from the nucleation site, as apparent from time-resolved SFG spectroscopy.

  • Ice nucleation
  • Pseudomonas Syringae
  • Ice protein
  • sum frequency generation

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