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Metabolic fingerprinting of bacteria by fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy


Bacterial populations exhibit a range of metabolic states influenced by their environment, intra- and interspecies interactions. The identification of bacterial metabolic states and transitions between them in their native environment promises to elucidate community behavior and stochastic processes, such as antibiotic resistance acquisition. In this work, we employ two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) to create a metabolic fingerprint of individual bacteria and populations. FLIM of autofluorescent reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (phosphate), NAD(P)H, has been previously exploited for label-free metabolic imaging of mammalian cells. However, NAD(P)H FLIM has not been established as a metabolic proxy in bacteria. Applying the phasor approach, we create FLIM-phasor maps of Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus epidermidis at the single cell and population levels. The bacterial phasor is sensitive to environmental conditions such as antibiotic exposure and growth phase, suggesting that observed shifts in the phasor are representative of metabolic changes within the cells. The FLIM-phasor approach represents a powerful, non-invasive imaging technique to study bacterial metabolism in situ and could provide unique insights into bacterial community behavior, pathology and antibiotic resistance with sub-cellular resolution.

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