Using fluorescence intensity of enhanced green fluorescent protein to quantify Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Erin Wilson, Macduff Okuom, Nathan Kyes, Dylan Mayfield, Christina Wilson, Derek Sabatka, Jasmin Sandoval, Jared R. Foote, Michael J. Kangas, Andrea E. Holmes, Arin L. Sutlief

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


A variety of direct and indirect methods have been used to quantify planktonic and biofilm bacterial cells. Direct counting methods to determine the total number of cells include plate counts, microscopic cell counts, Coulter cell counting, flow cytometry, and fluorescence microscopy. However, indirect methods are often used to supplement direct cell counting, as they are often more convenient, less time-consuming, and require less material, while providing a number that can be related to the direct cell count. Herein, an indirect method is presented that uses fluorescence emission intensity as a proxy marker for studying bacterial accumulation. A clinical strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa was genetically modified to express a green fluorescent protein (PA14/EGFP). The fluorescence intensity of EGFP in live cells was used as an indirect measure of live cell density, and was compared with the traditional cell counting methods of optical density (OD600) and plate counting (colony-forming units (CFUs)). While both OD600 and CFUs are well-established methods, the use of fluorescence spectroscopy to quantify bacteria is less common. This study demonstrates that EGFP intensity is a convenient reporter for bacterial quantification. In addition, we demonstrate the potential for fluorescence spectroscopy to be used to measure the quantity of PA14/EGFP biofilms, which have important human health implications due to their antimicrobial resistance. Therefore, fluorescence spectroscopy could serve as an alternative or complementary quick assay to quantify bacteria in planktonic cultures and biofilms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Bacterial quantification
  • Biofilms
  • Enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Fluorescence spectroscopy
  • Fluorescent probe
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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