• Assessing the viability of bacterial species in drinking water by combined cellular and molecular analyses.

      Kahlisch, Leila; Henne, Karsten; Gröbe, Lothar; Brettar, Ingrid; Höfle, Manfred G; Department of Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstrasse 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2012-02)
      The question which bacterial species are present in water and if they are viable is essential for drinking water safety but also of general relevance in aquatic ecology. To approach this question we combined propidium iodide/SYTO9 staining ("live/dead staining" indicating membrane integrity), fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and community fingerprinting for the analysis of a set of tap water samples. Live/dead staining revealed that about half of the bacteria in the tap water had intact membranes. Molecular analysis using 16S rRNA and 16S rRNA gene-based single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) fingerprints and sequencing of drinking water bacteria before and after FACS sorting revealed: (1) the DNA- and RNA-based overall community structure differed substantially, (2) the community retrieved from RNA and DNA reflected different bacterial species, classified as 53 phylotypes (with only two common phylotypes), (3) the percentage of phylotypes with intact membranes or damaged cells were comparable for RNA- and DNA-based analyses, and (4) the retrieved species were primarily of aquatic origin. The pronounced difference between phylotypes obtained from DNA extracts (dominated by Betaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria) and from RNA extracts (dominated by Alpha-, Beta-, Gammaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Cyanobacteria) demonstrate the relevance of concomitant RNA and DNA analyses for drinking water studies. Unexpected was that a comparable fraction (about 21%) of phylotypes with membrane-injured cells was observed for DNA- and RNA-based analyses, contradicting the current understanding that RNA-based analyses represent the actively growing fraction of the bacterial community. Overall, we think that this combined approach provides an interesting tool for a concomitant phylogenetic and viability analysis of bacterial species of drinking water.