Quantitative real-time PCR and fluorescence in situ hybridization approaches for enumerating Brevundimonas diminuta in drinking water

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Department of Biological Sciences


Brevundimonas diminuta is a small Gram-negative bacterium used for validation of membranes and filters used in the pharmaceutical and drinking water treatment industries. Current assays are time consuming, nonselective, and may be subject to interference by competing indigenous microorganisms. The focus of this study is to develop rapid and specific enumeration methodologies for B. diminuta. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) assays were developed based on the gyrB (1,166 bp) and rpoD (829 bp) gene sequences of B. diminuta ATCC 19146. Species-specific primers and probes were designed, and a 100-200 bp segment of each gene was targeted in the qPCR studies. For both the qPCR and FISH assays, an internal 25 bp sequence was selected for use as a TaqMan probe (labeled with 6-FAM and a Black Hole Quencher). Probe specificity studies, conducted against Gram-negative and Gram-positive reference strains as well as environmental strains, revealed high specificity of the primer/probe pairs to B. diminuta. Sensitivities of the qPCR reactions using purified genomic DNA from B. diminuta were determined to be 0.89 pg for rpoD and 8.9 pg for gyrB. The feasibility of using whole-cell B. diminuta suspensions directly with the rpoD qPCR protocol was also evaluated. The greatest sensitivity observed for B. diminuta was 1 × 103 colony forming units (CFU) per mL when tryptic soy broth was used as the growth medium. When compared with direct microscopic enumeration using a 5†6-FAM FISH probe, traditional plating methods showed significant underestimation of B. diminuta concentration (P = 0.01) when this organism was cultivated in saline lactose broth. The results of this investigation demonstrate that qPCR and FISH are effective methods for rapid ( < 4 h) enumeration of B. diminuta and may be viable alternatives to plating when validating drinking water filtration systems.

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Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology