Applied and environmental microbiology

In vivo bioluminescence imaging for the study of intestinal colonization by Escherichia coli in mice.

PMID 19880653


Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) is emerging as a powerful tool for real-time monitoring of infections in living animals. However, since luciferases are oxygenases, it has been suggested that the requirement for oxygen may limit the use of BLI in anaerobic environments, such as the lumen of the gut. Strains of Escherichia coli harboring the genes for either the bacterial luciferase from Photorhabdus luminescens or the PpyRE-TS and PpyGR-TS firefly luciferase mutants of Photinus pyralis (red and green thermostable P. pyralis luciferase mutants, respectively) have been engineered and used to monitor intestinal colonization in the streptomycin-treated mouse model. There was excellent correlation between the bioluminescence signal measured in the feces (R2=0.98) or transcutaneously in the abdominal region of whole animals (R2=0.99) and the CFU counts in the feces of bacteria harboring the luxABCDE operon. Stability in vivo of the bioluminescence signal was achieved by constructing plasmid pAT881(pGB2OmegaPamiluxABCDE), which allowed long-term monitoring of intestinal colonization without the need for antibiotic selection for plasmid maintenance. Levels of intestinal colonization by various strains of E. coli could be compared directly by simple recording of the bioluminescence signal in living animals. The difference in spectra of light emission of the PpyRE-TS and PpyGR-TS firefly luciferase mutants and dual bioluminescence detection allowed direct in vitro and in vivo quantification of two bacterial populations by measurement of red and green emitted signals and thus monitoring of the two populations simultaneously. This system offers a simple and direct method to study in vitro and in vivo competition between mutants and the parental strain. BLI is a useful tool to study intestinal colonization.

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L8507 Luciferase from Vibrio fischeri (Photobacterium f), lyophilized powder