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Proteins cause ice nucleation: a plant pathogen

The cells of Pseudomonas syringae, a plant pathogen, can cause ice nucleation via specific surface proteins.

"P. syringae is one of the few plant pathogens known to be disseminated up into clouds (Jayaweera and Flanagan, 1982; Sands et al., 1982). It is also scrubbed from the air during rain (Constantinidou et al., 1990). Many strains of this bacterium are ice nucleation-active (Lindow, 1983), are known to survive freezing as well as induce freezing, and it has been suggested that they might even have a role in inciting rainfall via their ice nucleation activity (Morris et al., 2004)." (Morris et al. 2007:85)

"Antifreeze proteins (AFPs) inhibit the growth of ice, whereas ice-nucleation proteins (INPs) promote its formation…Although several organisms have been identified as having ice-nucleation activity, the best characterized by biochemical methods are the bacterial INPs. Of these INPs, that of Pseudomonas syringae is often used as a representative protein." (Graether and Jia 2001:1169)
About the inspiring organism

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Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Ice cream additive to keep nucleation events small/fast, stabilizing protein will have clinical results for human disease (eg. DMSO). Use as additive for controlling nucleation of ice.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Medicine, manufacturing, food, ecosystem restoration

Zongchao Jia
Queen's University
Department Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology
David C. Sands
Montana State University
Morris, C. E.; Kinkel, L. L.; Xiao, K.; Prior, P.; Sands, D. C. 2007. Surprising niche for the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 7(1): 84-92.
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Graether, SP; Jia, Z. Modeling Pseudomonas syringae ice-nucleation protein as a b-Helical protein. Biophysical Journal. 80(3): 1169-1173.
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