Investigating the heterogeneity of cell growth in microbial colonies by FTIR microspectroscopy

Thi, N. A. Ngo; Naumann, D.
March 2007
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Mar2007, Vol. 387 Issue 5, p1769
Academic Journal
Microorganisms rarely occur as individual cells in nature and are, instead, organized in complex multicellular communities such as colonies, fruiting bodies, or biofilms. Interest in the natural microbial life-style has increased during the last decade and a whole plethora of techniques has been used to gain insight into the development, structure and composition of diverse microbial communities. We have developed a technique for investigating the spatial heterogeneity of microbial growth in macro-colonies which essentially entails excision of the colonies with the underlying agar, freezing and subsequent cryotoming of the colonies, then FTIR microspectroscopic mapping of the cryosections. Colonies from Legionella, Bacillus, and Candida strains were chosen as model systems of multi-cellular communities to evaluate the technique. The results obtained indicate pronounced cell population heterogeneity even in relatively young colonies cultivated under laboratory conditions. Spectral data obtained from different positions within, e.g., a colony of Legionella bozemanii 120 h old indicated that levels of the storage material poly-β-hydroxybutyric acid were significantly higher in cells at the surface of the colonies than in those growing at the bottom next to the agar surface. Similarly, in a 24-h-old macro-colony of Bacillus megaterium significantly more of the capsular compound polyglutamic acid was detected in upper layers than in deeper layers of the colony. Results demonstrate that FTIR microspectroscopy can be an useful tool for investigation of the spatial heterogeneity of cell growth within microbial macro-colonies. It is suggested that the method also can be adapted to the analysis of more complex multicellular communities, for example fruiting bodies, biofilms, or colonies growing under natural conditions.


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