Applications of Imaging for Bacterial Systems Biology

Curr Opin Microbiol. 2015 Oct;27:114-20. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2015.08.003. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


Imaging has fueled exciting advances in bacterial cell biology, which have led to exquisite understanding of mechanisms of protein localization and cell growth in select cases. Nonetheless, it remains a challenge to connect subcellular dynamics to cellular phenotypes. In this review, I explore synergies between imaging and systems approaches to bacterial physiology. I highlight how single-cell, time-lapse imaging under environmental or chemical perturbations yields insights that complement traditional observations based on population-level growth on long time-scales. Next, I discuss applications of high-throughput fluorescence imaging to dissect genetic pathways and drug targets. Finally, I describe how confocal imaging is illuminating the role of spatial organization in the structure and function of bacterial communities, from biofilms to the intestinal microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / ultrastructure*
  • Biofilms
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Microbial Consortia / physiology
  • Molecular Imaging / instrumentation
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Systems Biology / methods*