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Journal of Microscopy

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Fluorescence, Fluorescence spectrometry -- Research


The utility of fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) for identifying bacteria in complex mineral matrices was investigated. Baseline signals from unlabelled Bacillus subtilis and Euglena gracilis, and Bacillus subtilis labelled with SYTO 9 were obtained using two-photon excitation at 730, 750 and 800 nm, identifying characteristic lifetimes of photosynthetic pigments, unpigmented cellular autofluorescence, and SYTO 9. Labelled and unlabelled B. subtilis were seeded onto marble and gypsum samples containing endolithic photosynthetic cyanobacteria and the ability to distinguish cells from mineral autofluorescence and nonspecific dye staining was examined in parallel with ordinary multichannel confocal imaging. It was found that FLIM enabled discrimination of SYTO 9 labelled cells from background, but that the lifetime of SYTO 9 was shorter in cells on minerals than in pure culture under our conditions. Photosynthetic microorganisms were easily observed using both FLIM and confocal. Unlabelled, nonpigmented bacteria showed weak signals that were difficult to distinguish from background when minerals were present, though cellular autofluorescence consistent with NAD(P)H could be seen in pure cultures, and phasor analysis permitted detection on rocks. Gypsum and marble samples showed similar autofluorescence profiles, with little autofluorescence in the yellow-to-red range. Lifetime or time-gated imaging may prove a useful tool for environmental microbiology.


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