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Frontiers in Microbiology

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Bacillus subtilis, Bacterial motility, Temperature effects, Heat shock, Holographic microscopy


We describe a system for high-temperature investigations of bacterial motility using a digital holographic microscope completely submerged in heated water. Temperatures above 90°C could be achieved, with a constant 5°C offset between the sample temperature and the surrounding water bath. Using this system, we observed active motility in Bacillus subtilis up to 66°C. As temperatures rose, most cells became immobilized on the surface, but a fraction of cells remained highly motile at distances of >100 μm above the surface. Suspended non-motile cells showed Brownian motion that scaled consistently with temperature and viscosity. A novel open-source automated tracking package was used to obtain 2D tracks of motile cells and quantify motility parameters, showing that swimming speed increased with temperature until ∼40°C, then plateaued. These findings are consistent with the observed heterogeneity of B. subtilis populations, and represent the highest reported temperature for swimming in this species. This technique is a simple, low-cost method for quantifying motility at high temperatures and could be useful for investigation of many different cell types, including thermophilic archaea.


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