The adsorption of fungal ice-nucleating proteins on mineral dusts: a terrestrial reservoir of atmospheric ice-nucleating particles
Abstract. The occurrence of ice-nucleating particles (INPs) in our atmosphere has a profound impact on the properties and lifetime of supercooled clouds. To date, the identities, sources and abundances of particles capable of nucleating ice at relatively low supercoolings (T > −15 °C) remain enigmatic. While biomolecules such as proteins and carbohydrates have been implicated as important high-temperature INPs, the lack of knowledge on the environmental fates of these species makes it difficult to assess their potential atmospheric impacts. Here we show that such nanoscale ice-nucleating proteins from a common soil-borne fungus (Fusarium avenaceum) preferentially bind to and confer their ice-nucleating properties to kaolinite. The ice-nucleating activity of the proteinaceous INPs is unaffected by adsorption to the clay, and once bound the proteins do not readily desorb, retaining much of the activity even after multiple washings with pure water. The atmospheric implications of the finding that biological residues can confer their ice-nucleating ability to dust particles are discussed.