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J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Mar;49(3):1123-7.

Steady-state and time-resolved spectroscopy of F420 extracted from methanogen cells and its utility as a marker for fecal contamination.

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Department of Chemistry, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-3111, USA.


Methanogenic bacteria, which are common inhabitants of the animal digestive tract, contain the fluorescent compound F420 (coenzyme 420), a 7,8-didemethyl-8-hydroxy-5-deazariboflavin chromophore. F420 was characterized as an initial step in determining if this compound would be useful as a fluorescent marker for the detection of fecal and ingesta contamination. Using a single anion exchange chromatographic process, F420 was separated from other cell components of a Methanobrevibacter sp. cell culture. The extent of separation was determined spectroscopically. To aid in the development of possible techniques for the detection of fecal contamination using F420 as a marker, further spectroscopic investigation of F420 was conducted using steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence methods. The fluorescence lifetime of F420 in an elution buffer of pH 7.5 was found to be 4.2 ns. At higher pH values, the fluorescence decay, F(t), was best described by a sum of two exponentials: at pH 13, F(t) = 0.31 exp(-t/4.20 ns) + 0.69 exp(-t/1.79 ns). Further investigation using front-faced fluorescence techniques has shown that emission from F420 can be collected efficiently from samples of methanogen cell cultures as well as from fecal material.

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