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Nat Protoc. 2007;2(2):269-76.

Virus and prokaryote enumeration from planktonic aquatic environments by epifluorescence microscopy with SYBR Green I.

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Marine Environmental Biology Section, University of Southern California, 3616 Trousdale Parkway, AHF-107, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.


Viruses are the most abundant biological entities in aquatic environments, typically exceeding the abundance of bacteria by an order of magnitude. The reliable enumeration of virus-like particles in marine microbiological investigations is a key measurement parameter. Although the size of typical marine viruses (20-200 nm) is too small to permit the resolution of details by light microscopy, such viruses can be visualized by epifluorescence microscopy if stained brightly. This can be achieved using the sensitive DNA dye SYBR Green I (Molecular Probes-Invitrogen). The method relies on simple vacuum filtration to capture viruses on a 0.02-microm aluminum oxide filter, and subsequent staining and mounting to prepare slides. Virus-like particles are brightly stained and easily observed for enumeration, and prokaryotic cells can easily be counted on the same slides. The protocol provides an inexpensive, rapid (30 min) and reliable technique for obtaining counts of viruses and prokaryotes simultaneously.

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