A Submersible, Off-Axis Holographic Microscope for Detection of Microbial Motility and Morphology in Aqueous and Icy Environments.
ABSTRACT: Sea ice is an analog environment for several of astrobiology's near-term targets: Mars, Europa, Enceladus, and perhaps other Jovian or Saturnian moons. Microorganisms, both eukaryotic and prokaryotic, remain active within brine channels inside the ice, making it unnecessary to penetrate through to liquid water below in order to detect life. We have developed a submersible digital holographic microscope (DHM) that is capable of resolving individual bacterial cells, and demonstrated its utility for immediately imaging samples taken directly from sea ice at several locations near Nuuk, Greenland. In all samples, the appearance and motility of eukaryotes were conclusive signs of life. The appearance of prokaryotic cells alone was not sufficient to confirm life, but when prokaryotic motility occurred, it was rapid and conclusive. Warming the samples to above-freezing temperatures or supplementing with serine increased the number of motile cells and the speed of motility; supplementing with serine also stimulated chemotaxis. These results show that DHM is a useful technique for detection of active organisms in extreme environments, and that motility may be used as a biosignature in the liquid brines that persist in ice. These findings have important implications for the design of missions to icy environments and suggest ways in which DHM imaging may be integrated with chemical life-detection suites in order to create more conclusive life detection packages.
Project description:Icy worlds in the solar system and beyond have attracted a remarkable attention as possible habitats for life. The current consideration about whether life exists beyond Earth is based on our knowledge of life in terrestrial cold environments. On Earth, glaciers and ice sheets have been considered uninhabited for a long time as they seemed too hostile to harbor life. However, these environments are unique biomes dominated by microbial communities which maintain active biochemical routes. Thanks to techniques such as microscopy and more recently DNA sequencing methods, a great biodiversity of prokaryote and eukaryote microorganisms have been discovered. These microorganisms are adapted to a harsh environment, in which the most extreme features are the lack of liquid water, extremely cold temperatures, high solar radiation and nutrient shortage. Here we compare the environmental characteristics of icy worlds, and the environmental characteristics of terrestrial glaciers and ice sheets in order to address some interesting questions: (i) which are the characteristics of habitability known for the frozen worlds, and which could be compatible with life, (ii) what are the environmental characteristics of terrestrial glaciers and ice sheets that can be life-limiting, (iii) What are the microbial communities of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms that can live in them, and (iv) taking into account these observations, could any of these planets or satellites meet the conditions of habitability? In this review, the icy worlds are considered from the point of view of astrobiological exploration. With the aim of determining whether icy worlds could be potentially habitable, they have been compared with the environmental features of glaciers and ice sheets on Earth. We also reviewed some field and laboratory investigations about microorganisms that live in analog environments of icy worlds, where they are not only viable but also metabolically active.
Project description:Detection of extant microbial life on Earth and elsewhere in the Solar System requires the ability to identify and enumerate micrometer-scale, essentially featureless cells. On Earth, bacteria are usually enumerated by culture plating or epifluorescence microscopy. Culture plates require long incubation times and can only count culturable strains, and epifluorescence microscopy requires extensive staining and concentration of the sample and instrumentation that is not readily miniaturized for space. Digital holographic microscopy (DHM) represents an alternative technique with no moving parts and higher throughput than traditional microscopy, making it potentially useful in space for detection of extant microorganisms provided that sufficient numbers of cells can be collected. Because sample collection is expected to be the limiting factor for space missions, especially to outer planets, it is important to quantify the limits of detection of any proposed technique for extant life detection. Here we use both laboratory and field samples to measure the limits of detection of an off-axis digital holographic microscope (DHM). A statistical model is used to estimate any instrument's probability of detection at various bacterial concentrations based on the optical performance characteristics of the instrument, as well as estimate the confidence interval of detection. This statistical model agrees well with the limit of detection of 10<sup>3</sup> cells/mL that was found experimentally with laboratory samples. In environmental samples, active cells were immediately evident at concentrations of 10<sup>4</sup> cells/mL. Published estimates of cell densities for Enceladus plumes yield up to 10<sup>4</sup> cells/mL, which are well within the off-axis DHM's limits of detection to confidence intervals greater than or equal to 95%, assuming sufficient sample volumes can be collected. The quantitative phase imaging provided by DHM allowed minerals to be distinguished from cells. Off-axis DHM's ability for rapid low-level bacterial detection and counting shows its viability as a technique for detection of extant microbial life provided that the cells can be captured intact and delivered to the sample chamber in a sufficient volume of liquid for imaging. Key Words: In situ life detection-Extant microorganisms-Holographic microscopy-Ocean Worlds-Enceladus-Imaging. Astrobiology 17, 913-925.
Project description:Digital holographic microscopy (DHM) is an emerging imaging technique that permits instantaneous capture of a relatively large sample volume. However, large volumes usually come at the expense of lower spatial resolution, and the technique has rarely been used with prokaryotic cells due to their small size and low contrast. In this paper we demonstrate the use of a Mach-Zehnder dual-beam instrument for imaging of labeled and unlabeled bacteria and microalgae. Spatial resolution of 0.3 ?m is achieved, providing a sampling of several pixels across a typical prokaryotic cell. Both cellular motility and morphology are readily recorded. The use of dyes provides both amplitude and phase contrast improvement and is of use to identify cells in dense samples.
Project description:Irradiated ice-covered ocean worlds with rocky mafic mantles may provide the conditions needed to drive the emergence and maintenance of life. Alkaline hydrothermal springs-relieving the geophysical, thermal, and chemical disequilibria between oceans and tidally stressed crusts-could generate inorganic barriers to the otherwise uncontrolled and kinetically disfavored oxidation of hydrothermal hydrogen and methane. Ionic gradients imposed across these inorganic barriers, comprising iron oxyhydroxides and sulfides, could drive the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide and the oxidation of methane through thermodynamically favorable metabolic pathways leading to early life-forms. In such chemostatic environments, fuels may eventually outweigh oxidants. Ice-covered oceans are primarily heated from below, creating convection that could transport putative microbial cells and cellular cooperatives upward to congregate beneath an ice shell, potentially giving rise to a highly focused shallow biosphere. It is here where electron acceptors, ultimately derived from the irradiated surface, could be delivered to such life-forms through exchange with the icy surface. Such zones would act as "electron disposal units" for the biosphere, and occupants might be transferred toward the surface by buoyant diapirs and even entrained into plumes. Key Words: Biofilms-Europa-Extraterrestrial life-Hydrothermal systems. Astrobiology 17, 1265-1273.
Project description:Three-dimensional profiling and tracking by digital holography microscopy (DHM) provide label-free and quantitative analysis of the characteristics and dynamic processes of objects, since DHM can record real-time data for microscale objects and produce a single hologram containing all the information about their three-dimensional structures. Here, we have utilized DHM to visualize suspended microspheres and microfibers in three dimensions, and record the four-dimensional trajectories of free-swimming cells in the absence of mechanical focus adjustment. The displacement of microfibers due to interactions with cells in three spatial dimensions has been measured as a function of time at subsecond and micrometer levels in a direct and straightforward manner. It has thus been shown that DHM is a highly efficient and versatile means for quantitative tracking and analysis of cell motility.
Project description:Cold environments, such as glaciers, are large reservoirs of microbial life. The present study employed 16S rRNA gene amplicon metagenomic sequencing to survey the prokaryotic microbiota on Alaskan glacial ice, revealing a rich and diverse microbial community of some 2,500 species of bacteria and archaea.
Project description:The interior structure of the giant ice planets Uranus and Neptune, but also of newly discovered exoplanets, is loosely constrained, because limited observational data can be satisfied with various interior models. Although it is known that their mantles comprise large amounts of water, ammonia, and methane ices, it is unclear how these organize themselves within the planets-as homogeneous mixtures, with continuous concentration gradients, or as well-separated layers of specific composition. While individual ices have been studied in great detail under pressure, the properties of their mixtures are much less explored. We show here, using first-principles calculations, that the 2:1 ammonia hydrate, (H2O)(NH3)2, is stabilized at icy planet mantle conditions due to a remarkable structural evolution. Above 65 GPa, we predict it will transform from a hydrogen-bonded molecular solid into a fully ionic phase O2-([Formula: see text])2, where all water molecules are completely deprotonated, an unexpected bonding phenomenon not seen before. Ammonia hemihydrate is stable in a sequence of ionic phases up to 500 GPa, pressures found deep within Neptune-like planets, and thus at higher pressures than any other ammonia-water mixture. This suggests it precipitates out of any ammonia-water mixture at sufficiently high pressures and thus forms an important component of icy planets.
Project description:Integrative and conjugative elements (ICEs) comprise ubiquitous large mobile regions in prokaryotic chromosomes that transmit vertically to daughter cells and transfer horizontally to distantly related lineages. Their evolutionary success originates in maximized combined ICE-host fitness trade-offs, but how the ICE impacts on the host metabolism and physiology is poorly understood. Here we investigate global changes in the host genetic network and physiology of Pseudomonas putida with or without an integrated ICEclc, a model ICE widely distributed in proteobacterial genomes. Genome-wide gene expression differences were analyzed by RNA-seq using exponentially growing or stationary phase-restimulated cultures on 3-chlorobenzoate, an aromatic compound metabolizable thanks to specific ICEclc-located genes. We found that the presence of ICEclc imposes a variety of changes in global pathways such as cell cycle and amino acid metabolism, which were more numerous in stationary-restimulated than exponential phase cells. Unexpectedly, ICEclc stimulates cellular motility and leads to more rapid growth on 3-chlorobenzoate than cells carrying only the integrated clc genes. ICEclc also concomitantly activates the P. putida Pspu28-prophage, but this in itself did not provoke measurable fitness effects. ICEclc thus interferes in a number of cellular pathways, inducing both direct benefits as well as indirect costs in P. putida.
Project description:Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a potentially fatal disease, and expedited referral and treatment is needed to ensure early detection.We aimed to assess the symptomatology of Greenlandic patients with CRC and the primary investigations initiated before referral to Dronning Ingrids Hospital in Nuuk for further diagnostic workup. Primary care interval (first consultation until referral), hospital interval (referral until diagnosis) and diagnostic interval (first consultation until diagnosis) were calculated and compared between patients living in Nuuk and in other places in Greenland ("the Coast").This was a retrospective, register-based study of all patients in Greenland diagnosed with CRC from 2008 through 2011. Medical history was obtained and investigated by reviewing the primary care charts.In total 113 patients were identified from the Greenlandic cancer database or pathology reports. About 80% of the patients were asked about blood in the stools and changes of bowel habits, and the majority responded positively to this. Abdominal examination was performed for 78%, 65% had a rectal examination performed, 22% a proctoscopy performed and 51% a haemoglobin level measured. The median primary care interval was 4 days in Nuuk vs. 55 days for patients from "the Coast" (p=0.01); the median diagnostic interval was 55 days in Nuuk vs. 95 days for patients from "the Coast" (p=0.04). Median hospital interval was similar for both groups (23 days vs 24 days; p=0.86). Women had a median primary care interval of 70 days vs. 15 days for men (p=0.06).Patients with CRC presented classic symptomatology of CRC. Primary care interval and diagnostic interval were significantly longer for patients from "the Coast" compared with Nuuk. Women tended to have longer primary care interval. A more standardised examination should be implemented and a national CRC screening programme should be considered to reduce the difference in diagnostic interval and ensure timely referral.
Project description:Aminoglycoside-induced ototoxicity can have a major impact on patients' quality of life and social development problems. Oxidative stress affects normal physiologic functions and has been implicated in aminoglycoside-induced inner ear injury. Excessive accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) damages DNA, lipids, and proteins in cells and induces their apoptosis. Dihydromyricetin (DHM) is a natural flavonol with a wide range of health benefits including anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antioxidant effects; however, its effects and mechanism of action in auditory hair cells are not well understood. The present study investigated the antioxidant mechanism and anti-ototoxic potential of DHM using House Ear Institute-Organ of Corti (HEI-OC)1 auditory cells and cochlear explant cultures prepared from Kunming mice. We used gentamicin to establish aminoglycoside-induced ototoxicity models. Histological and physiological analyses were carried out to determine DHM's pharmacological effects on gentamicin-induced ototoxicity. Results showed DHM contributes to protecting cells from apoptotic cell death by inhibiting ROS accumulation. Western blotting and quantitative RT-PCR analyses revealed that DHM exerted its otoprotective effects by up-regulating levels of peroxisome proliferator activated receptor ?-coactivator (PGC)-1? and Sirtuin (SIRT)3. And the role of PGC-1? and SIRT3 in the protective effects of DHM was evaluated by pharmacologic inhibition of these factors using SR-18292 and 3-(1H-1,2,3-triazol-4-yl) pyridine, respectively, which indicated DHM's protective effect was dependent on activation of the PGC-1?/SIRT3 signaling. Our study is the first report to identify DHM as a potential otoprotective drug and provides a basis for the prevention and treatment of hearing loss caused by aminoglycoside antibiotic-induced oxidative damage to auditory hair cells.