Validating tyrosinase homologue melA as a photoacoustic reporter gene for imaging Escherichia coli
Robert J. Paproski, Yan Li, Quinn Barber, John D. Lewis, Robert E. Campbell, Roger ZempJournal of Biomedical Optics2015
To understand the pathogenic processes for infectious bacteria, appropriate research tools are required for replicating and characterizing infections. Fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging have primarily been used to image infections in animal models, but optical scattering in tissue significantly limits imaging depth and resolution. Photoacoustic imaging, which has improved depth-to-resolution ratio compared to conventional optical imaging, could be useful for visualizing melA-expressing bacteria since melA is a bacterial tyrosinase homologue which produces melanin. Escherichia coli-expressing melA was visibly dark in liquid culture. When melA-expressing bacteria in tubes were imaged with a VisualSonics Vevo LAZR system, the signal-to-noise ratio of a 9× dilution sample was 55, suggesting that ∼20 bacteria cells could be detected with our system. Multispectral (680, 700, 750, 800, 850, and 900 nm) analysis of the photoacoustic signal allowed unmixing of melA-expressing bacteria from blood. To compare photoacoustic reporter gene melA (using Vevo system) with luminescent and fluorescent reporter gene Nano-lantern (using Bruker Xtreme In-Vivo system), tubes of bacteria expressing melA or Nano-lantern were submerged 10 mm in 1% Intralipid, spaced between <1 and 20 mm apart from each other, and imaged with the appropriate imaging modality. Photoacoustic imaging could resolve the two tubes of melA-expressing bacteria even when the tubes were less than 1 mm from each other, while bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging could not resolve the two tubes of Nano-lan- tern-expressing bacteria even when the tubes were spaced 10 mm from each other. After injecting 100-μL of melA-expressing bacteria in the back flank of a chicken embryo, photoacoustic imaging allowed visualization of melA-expressing bacteria up to 10-mm deep into the embryo. Photoacoustic signal from melA could also be separated from deoxy- and oxy-hemoglobin signal observed within the embryo and chorioallantoic membrane. Our results suggest that melA is a useful photoacoustic reporter gene for visualizing bacteria, and further work incorporating photoacoustic reporters into infectious bacterial strains is warranted.