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Methods Mol Biol. 2012;881:375-408. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-827-6_13.

NanoSIP: NanoSIMS applications for microbial biology.

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Chemical Sciences Division, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, USA.


Recent advances in high-resolution imaging secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) (J Biol 5: 20, 2006) have made isotopic tracing at the single-cell level a standard technique for microbial ecology and systems biology; elemental and metal cofactor analyses are also showing significant promise. For example, with the NanoSIMS, metabolic activities of single microbial cells can be tracked by imaging natural isotopic/elemental composition or isotope distribution after stable isotope probing. When linked to molecular visualization methods, such as in situ hybridization and antibody labeling, these techniques enable in situ function to be linked to microbial identity and gene expression. We broadly call this combination of methods nanoSIP, for nanometer-scale stable isotope probing. Here we present the primary materials and methods used for nanoSIP, with an emphasis on key steps and potential pitfalls. Applications to pure cultures, cocultures, and complex communities are discussed.

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