Flow cytometric sorting of fecal bacteria after in situ hybridization with polynucleotide probes

Lena M. Bruder, Marcel Dörkes, Bernhard M. Fuchs, Wolfgang Ludwig, Wolfgang Liebl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The gut microbiome represents a key contributor to human physiology, metabolism, immune function, and nutrition. Elucidating the composition and genetics of the gut microbiota under various conditions is essential to understand how microbes function individually and as a community. Metagenomic analyses are increasingly used to study intestinal microbiota. However, for certain scientific questions it is sufficient to examine taxon-specific submetagenomes, covering selected bacterial genera in a targeted manner. Here we established a new variant of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) combined with fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), providing access to the genomes of specific taxa belonging to the complex community of the intestinal microbiota. In contrast to standard oligonucleotide probes, the RNA polynucleotide probe used here, which targets domain III of the 23S rRNA gene, extends the resolution power in environmental samples by increasing signal intensity. Furthermore, cells hybridized with the polynucleotide probe are not subjected to harsh pretreatments, and their genetic information remains intact. The protocol described here was tested on genus-specifically labeled cells in various samples, including complex fecal samples from different laboratory mouse types that harbor diverse intestinal microbiota. Specifically, as an example for the protocol described here, RNA polynucleotide probes could be used to label Enterococcus cells for subsequent sorting by flow cytometry. To detect and quantify enterococci in fecal samples prior to enrichment, taxon-specific PCR and qPCR detection systems have been developed. The accessibility of the genomes from taxon-specifically sorted cells for subsequent molecular analyses was demonstrated by amplification of functional genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-475
Number of pages12
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Enterococcus
  • FACS
  • FISH
  • Gut microbiome
  • Polynucleotide probe
  • Specific cell enrichment


Dive into the research topics of 'Flow cytometric sorting of fecal bacteria after in situ hybridization with polynucleotide probes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this