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ISME J. 2008 Feb;2(2):121-31. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2007.107. Epub 2007 Nov 22.

Correlated biofilm imaging, transport and metabolism measurements via combined nuclear magnetic resonance and confocal microscopy.

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Environmental Microbial Genomics, J. Craig Venter Institute, 111 49 N Torrey Pines Rd, Suite 220, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Bacterial biofilms are complex, three-dimensional communities found nearly everywhere in nature and are also associated with many human diseases. Detailed metabolic information is critical to understand and exploit beneficial biofilms as well as combat antibiotic-resistant, disease-associated forms. However, most current techniques used to measure temporal and spatial metabolite profiles in these delicate structures are invasive or destructive. Here, we describe imaging, transport and metabolite measurement methods and their correlation for live, non-invasive monitoring of biofilm processes. This novel combination of measurements is enabled by the use of an integrated nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and confocal laser scanning microscope (CLSM). NMR methods provide macroscopic structure, metabolic pathway and rate data, spatially resolved metabolite concentrations and water diffusion profiles within the biofilm. In particular, current depth-resolved spectroscopy methods are applied to detect metabolites in 140-190 nl volumes within biofilms of the dissimilatory metal-reducing bacterium Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1 and the oral bacterium implicated in caries disease, Streptococcus mutans strain UA159. The perfused sample chamber also contains a transparent optical window allowing for the collection of complementary fluorescence information using a unique, in-magnet CLSM. In this example, the entire three-dimensional biofilm structure was imaged using magnetic resonance imaging. This was then correlated to a fluorescent CLSM image by employing a green fluorescent protein reporter construct of S. oneidensis. Non-invasive techniques such as described here, which enable measurements of dynamic metabolic processes, especially in a depth-resolved fashion, are expected to advance our understanding of processes occurring within biofilm communities.

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