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Cytometry A. 2010 Jul;77(7):623-34. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.20920.

Viability states of bacteria--specific mechanisms of selected probes.

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Department of Environmental Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany.


Single cell techniques like flow cytometry combined with viability staining can help to obtain information on viability states of bacteria. Many fluorescent dyes are available for this purpose and can be chosen according to the available excitation source, the species used, and the background of scientific questions and relevant specifications. Within this short overview, we focus on two diverse groups of bacteria: the gram- Escherichia coli and representatives of the gram+ Mycobacterium to demonstrate differences and similarities in dye uptake principles, processing and binding. We call for attention to possible diverse responses of different species to various viability assays. The cell surface structure of bacteria and the chemical properties of fluorescent probes considerably determine the success of a certain staining practice. Particular focus was drawn on analysis of membrane integrity, uptake of substrates and transformation of fluorogenic substrates.

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