Time-lapse high-resolution microscopy to study the morphogenesis of microorganisms

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the etiological agent for the tuberculosis disease, is a bacterial pathogen thought to infect about a quarter of the global human population. It is the first cause of death among infectious diseases, and is most prevalent in low-income populations. Much remains unknown about how these bacteria grow, divide, and manage to persist in the host even during month-long antibiotic treatments. Bacteria are typically at the edge of the spatial resolution that conventional optical microscopy techniques can offer, and so new tools are required to study bacterial substructures or surface morphologies with nanometer resolution. We developed a platform for automated optical microscopy and atomic force microscopy (AFM) in order to study the morphogenesis of mycobacteria. What is the growth dynamics of mycobacteria? Opposite models coexist in the literature for the pole growth dynamics of mycobacteria: the unipolar model and the bipolar model. We show that the growth dynamics of mycobacteria follows a new end take off NETO model. There is a surprising similarity between the NETO growth dynamics of mycobacteria and of fission yeast, which hints at shared mechanisms for pole growth in evolutionarily distant pole growing organisms. How do pole-growing organisms maintain their shape through insertion of new cell wall material at the tip? To explore further pole growth morphogenesis, we developed a method for imaging with AFM the pole of a growing rod-shaped microorganism. We observed the formation of a stiff fibril mesh on the pole of fission yeast cells, and showed that this mesh is stretched as the cell grows and insert new cell wall material at the tip. How do mycobacteria divide into two sibling cells? Another essential aspect of morphogenesis of rod-shaped cell is the division of a mother cell into two sibling cells. Using AFM, we measured the relative contributions of mechanical forces and molecular mechanisms driving the division process in mycobacteria. We showed that there is a concentration of mechanical stress at the future division site, using a combination of COMSOL finite element modeling and AFM measurements while controlling the cell turgor pressure. The accumulation of mechanical stress, in combination of enzymatic activity, ultimately leads to mechanical fracture and separation of the sibling bacteria. Conventional optical microscopy techniques tend to have low resolution and high speed, while conventional AFMs have comparatively high resolution and low speed. We designed and built a 3D-printed structured illumination (SIM) module, the openSIM, as an add-on for fluorescence microscopes. It provides structured illumination to obtain SIM images with higher resolution. With the aim of improving the imaging speed of AFM, we implemented photothermal actuation in a tip-scanning AFM head, and quantified the design constraints for high-speed photothermal off-resonance tapping imaging. AFM is most often used to scan and acquire high-resolution images of a sample. Its nanometer precision make it a unique tool for other applications. We combined an AFM head with a volcano-shaped probe for electrogram measurements, and demonstrated simultaneous recording of extracellular field potentials and contraction of the cell. This new tool opens the way for future studies exploring the intriguing links between mechanobiology and electrophysiology, with single-cell resolution.


Advisor(s):
Fantner, Georg
McKinney, John
Year:
2020
Publisher:
Lausanne, EPFL
Keywords:
Laboratories:
LBNI




 Record created 2020-09-18, last modified 2020-10-24


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