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J Microbiol Methods. 2008 Sep;75(1):127-34. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2008.05.017. Epub 2008 May 24.

Fixation procedures for flow cytometric analysis of environmental bacteria.

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  • 1UFZ, Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig, Department of Environmental Microbiology, Permoserstrasse 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany.


Analysis of environmental bacteria on the single cell level often requires fixation to store the cells and to keep them in a state as near life-like as possible. Fixation procedures should furthermore counteract the increase of autofluorescence, cell clogging, and distortion of surface characteristics. Additionally, they should meet the specific fixation demands of both aerobically and anaerobically grown bacteria. A fixation method was developed based on metal solutions in combination with sodium azide. The fixation efficiencies of aluminium, barium, bismuth, cobalt, molybdenum, nickel, and tungsten salts were evaluated by flow cytometric measurement of the DNA contents as a bacterial population/community stability marker. Statistical equivalence testing was involved to permit highly reliable flow cytometric pattern evaluation. Investigations were carried out with pure cultures representing environmentally important metabolic and respiratory pathways as controls and with activated sludge as an example for highly diverse bacterial communities. A mixture of 5 mM barium chloride and nickel chloride, each and 10% sodium azide was found to be a suitable fixative for all tested bacteria. The described method provided good sample stability for at least 9 days.

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