X-ray microanalytic method for measurement of dry matter and elemental content of individual bacteria.


A method for the determination of dry matter and elemental content of individual bacterial cells is described. The method is based on energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis in a transmission electron microscope. A theory for area correction of intensity is developed. Escherichia coli in the late exponential phase of growth and early stationary phase (glucose limited) had an average dry matter content of 278 and 154 fg/cell, respectively. Of the elements detected, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur, chlorine, potassium, and calcium together made up 15 to 17% of the dry matter content. A phosphorus content of 4.2 to 5.4% of the dry matter was found in these cells. Volume measurements of air-dried cells gave an average of 1.20 to 1.25 micron3. These results emphasize that dry matter content and elemental composition can be measured directly on single cells from complex microbial communities.

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