Hydrostatic pressure is one of the physical stimuli that characterize the environment of living matter. Many microorganisms thrive under high pressure and may even physically or geochemically require this extreme environmental condition. In contrast, application of pressure is detrimental to most life on Earth; especially to living organisms under ambient pressure conditions. To study the mechanism of how living things adapt to high-pressure conditions, it is necessary to monitor directly the organism of interest under various pressure conditions. Here, we report a miniature chamber for high-pressure microscopy. The chamber was equipped with a built-in separator, in which water pressure was properly transduced to that of the sample solution. The apparatus developed could apply pressure up to 150 MPa, and enabled us to acquire bright-field and epifluorescence images at various pressures and temperatures. We demonstrated that the application of pressure acted directly and reversibly on the swimming motility of Escherichia coli cells. The present technique should be applicable to a wide range of dynamic biological processes that depend on applied pressures.
Keywords: bacterial motility; flagellar motor; high-pressure microscopy.