Green Fluorescent Protein-Based Direct Viable Count to Verify a Viable but Non-Culturable State of Salmonella Typhi in Environmental Samples

J Microbiol Methods. 1999 Jun;36(3):227-35. doi: 10.1016/s0167-7012(99)00038-x.


The gfp-tagging method and lux-tagging method were compared to select a better method for verifying a viable but nonculturable (VBNC) state of bacteria in the environment. An environmental isolate of Salmonella typhi was chromosomally marked with a gfp gene encoding green fluorescent protein (GFP). The hybrid transposon mini-Tn5 gfp was transconjugated from E. coli to S. typhi. Using the same method, S. typhi was chromosomally marked with luxAB genes encoding luciferase. The survival of gfp-tagged S. typhi introduced into groundwater microcosms was examined by GFP-based plate count, total cell count, and a direct viable count method. In microcosms containing lux-tagged S. typhi, luminescence-based plate count and the measurement of bioluminescence of each microcosm sample were performed. In microcosms containing lux-tagged S. typhi, viable but nonculturable cells could not be detected by using luminometry. As no distinguishable luminescence signals from the background signals were found in samples containing no culturable cells, a VBNC state of S. typhi could not be verified in lux-based systems. However, comparison between GFP-based direct viable counts and plate counts was a good method for verifying the VBNC state of S. typhi. Because GFP-based direct viable count method provided a direct and precise estimation of viable cells of introduced bacteria into natural environments, it can be used for verifying the VBNC state of bacteria in environmental samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Fresh Water / microbiology*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luciferases / genetics*
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics*
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Salmonella typhi / genetics
  • Salmonella typhi / growth & development*
  • Salmonella typhi / isolation & purification*
  • Water Microbiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luciferases