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J Clin Microbiol. 2008 Jul;46(7):2305-13. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02171-07. Epub 2008 Apr 30.

Method To Detect Only Live Bacteria during PCR Amplification.

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  • 1Department of Bacteriology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan.


Ethidium monoazide (EMA) is a DNA cross-linking agent and eukaryotic topoisomerase II poison. We previously reported that the treatment of EMA with visible light irradiation (EMA + Light) directly cleaved chromosomal DNA of Escherichia coli (T. Soejima, K. Iida, T. Qin, H. Taniai, M. Seki, A. Takade, and S. Yoshida, Microbiol. Immunol. 51:763-775, 2007). Herein, we report that EMA + Light randomly cleaved chromosomal DNA of heat-treated, but not live, Listeria monocytogenes cells within 10 min of treatment. When PCR amplified DNA that was 894 bp in size, PCR final products from 10(8) heat-treated L. monocytogenes were completely suppressed by EMA + Light. When target DNA was short (113 bp), like the hly gene of L. monocytogenes, DNA amplification was not completely suppressed by EMA + Light only. Thus, we used DNA gyrase/topoisomerase IV and mammalian topoisomerase poisons (here abbreviated as T-poisons) together with EMA + Light. T-poisons could penetrate heat-treated, but not live, L. monocytogenes cells within 30 min to cleave chromosomal DNA by poisoning activity. The PCR product of the hly gene from 10(8) heat-treated L. monocytogenes cells was inhibited by a combination of EMA + Light and T-poisons (EMA + Light + T-poisons), but those from live bacteria were not suppressed. As a model for clinical application to bacteremia, we tried to discriminate live and antibiotic-treated L. monocytogenes cells present in human blood. EMA + Light + T-poisons completely suppressed the PCR product from 10(3) to 10(7) antibiotic-treated L. monocytogenes cells but could detect 10(2) live bacteria. Considering the prevention and control of food poisoning, this method was applied to discriminate live and heat-treated L. monocytogenes cells spiked into pasteurized milk. EMA + Light + T-poisons inhibited the PCR product from 10(3) to 10(7) heat-treated cells but could detect 10(1) live L. monocytogenes cells. Our method is useful in clinical as well as food hygiene tests.

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