Development of a vital fluorescent staining method for monitoring bacterial transport in subsurface environments

M. E. Fuller, S. H. Streger, R. K. Rothmel, B. J. Mailloux, J. A. Hall, T. C. Onstott, J. K. Fredrickson, D. L. Balkwill, M. F. Deflaun

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98 Scopus citations


Previous bacterial transport studies have utilized fluorophores which have been shown to adversely affect the physiology of stained cells. This research was undertaken to identify alternative fluorescent stains that do not adversely affect the transport or viability of bacteria. Initial work was performed with a groundwater isolate, Comamonas sp. strain DA001. Potential compounds were first screened to determine staining efficiencies and adverse side effects. 5-(And 6-)-carboxyfluorescein diacetate, succinimidyl ester (CFDA/SE) efficiently stained DA001 without causing undesirable effects on cell adhesion or viability. Members of many other gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial genera were also effectively stained with CFDA/SE. More than 95% of CFDA/SE-stained Comamonas sp. strain DA001 cells incubated in artificial groundwater (under no-growth conditions) remained fluorescent for at least 28 days as determined by epifluorescent microscopy and flow cytometry. No differences in the survival and culturability of CFDA/SE-stained and unstained DA001 cells in groundwater or saturated sediment microcosms were detected. The bright, yellow-green cells were readily distinguished from autofluorescing sediment particles by epifluorescence microscopy. A high throughput method using microplate spectrofluorometry was developed, which had a detection limit of mid-105 CFDA-stained cells/ml; the detection limit for flow cytometry was on the order of 1,000 cells/ml. The results of laboratory-scale bacterial transport experiments performed with intact sediment cores and nondividing DA001 cells revealed good agreement between the aqueous cell concentrations determined by the microplate assay and those determined by other enumeration methods. This research indicates that CFDA/SE is very efficient for labeling cells for bacterial transport experiments and that it may be useful for other microbial ecology research as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4486-4496
Number of pages11
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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