A Mach-Zender Holographic Microscope for Quantifying Bacterial Motility

Friday, 19 December 2014
Jay L Nadeau1, Bimochan Niraula1, Eugene Serabyn2, J. Kent Wallace2, Kurt Liewer2, Jonas Kuhn2, Emilio Graff3 and Chris Lindensmith2, (1)McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, (2)NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (3)California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
New microscopic techniques have revolutionized cell biology over the past two decades. However, there are still biological processes whose details elude us, especially those involving motility: e.g. feeding behavior of microorganisms in the ocean, or migration of cancer cells to form metastases. Imaging prokaryotes, which range in size from several hundred nm to a few microns, is especially challenging. An emerging technique to address these issues is Digital Holographic Microscopy (DHM).

DHM is an imaging technique that uses the interference of light to record and reproduce three-dimensional magnified images of objects. This approach has several advantages over ordinary brightfield microscopy for fieldwork: a larger depth of field, hands-off operation, robustness regarding environmental conditions, and large sampling volumes with quantitative 3D records of motility behavior. Despite these promising features, real-time DHM was thought to be impractical for technological and computational reasons until recently, and there has so far been very limited application of DHM to biology. Most existing instruments are limited in performance by their particular (e.g. in-line, lens-less, phase-shifting) approach to holography. These limitations can be mitigated with an off-axis dual-path configuration. Here we describe the design and implementation of a design for a Mach-Zehnder-type holographic microscope with diffraction-limited lateral resolution, with intended applications in environmental microbiology.

We have achieved sub-micron resolution and three-dimensional tracking of prokaryotic and eukaryotic test strains designed to represent different modes and speeds of microbial motility. Prokaryotes are Escherichia coli, Vibrio alginolyticus, and Bacillus subtilis. Each shows a characteristic motility pattern, as we illustrate in holographic videos in sample chambers 0.6 mm in depth. The ability to establish gradients of attractants with bacterial taxis towards the attractant is also established. The eukaryotic strains are Euglena gracilis, which demonstrates both phototaxis and geotaxis, and Paramecium micromultinucleatum. The challenges of optimizing resolution vs. field of view, and of handling the large volumes of data generated during holographic imaging, are discussed.