Imaging host-pathogen interactions using epithelial and bacterial cell infection models

J Cell Sci. 2021 Feb 23;134(5):jcs250647. doi: 10.1242/jcs.250647.


The age-old saying, seeing is believing, could not be truer when we think about the value of imaging interactions between epithelial cells and bacterial pathogens. Imaging and culturing techniques have vastly improved over the years, and the breadth and depth of these methods is ever increasing. These technical advances have benefited researchers greatly; however, due to the large number of potential model systems and microscopy techniques to choose from, it can be overwhelming to select the most appropriate tools for your research question. This Review discusses a variety of available epithelial culturing methods and quality control experiments that can be performed, and outlines various options commonly used to fluorescently label bacterial and mammalian cell components. Both light- and electron-microscopy techniques are reviewed, with descriptions of both technical aspects and common applications. Several examples of imaging bacterial pathogens and their interactions with epithelial cells are discussed to provide researchers with an idea of the types of biological questions that can be successfully answered by using microscopy.

Keywords: Bacteria; Co-culture; Epithelial cells; Microscopy; Pathogens; Tissue culture.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria
  • Bacterial Infections*
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Microscopy