Optical microsensors for analysis of microbial communities

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Journal Article
Methods in Enzymology, 2005, 397 pp. 166 - 199
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Fiber-optic microprobes connected to sensitive light meters are ideal tools to resolve the steep gradients of light intensity and spectral composition that prevail in aggregates and surface-associated microbial communities in sediments, biofilms, and microbial mats. They allow for a detailed mapping of light fields and enable insights to the complex optical properties of such highly light-scattering and -absorbing microbial systems. Used in combination with microsensors for chemical species, fiber-optic irradiance microprobes allow for detailed studies of photosynthesis regulation and of the photobiology of microbial phototrophs in intact samples under ambient microenvironmental conditions of the natural habitat. Fiber-optic microprobes connected to sensitive fluorometers enable microscale fluorescence measurements, which can be used to map (i) diffusivity and flow; (ii) distribution of photosynthetic microbes, via their photopigment autofluorescence; and (iii) activity of oxygenic photosynthesis via variable chlorophyll fluorescence measurements. Furthermore, by immobilizing optical indicator dyes on the end of optical fibers, fiber-optic microsensors for temperature, salinity, and chemical species such as oxygen, pH, and CO2 can be realized. Copyright 2005, Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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