FilmTracer Biofilm Stains

FilmTracer biofilm stains are designed to accelerate biofilm research by making it easier to examine bacteria within biofilm communities. Traditionally, biofilms have proved difficult to stain because of their complex composition and structure. The FilmTracer stains have been tested and optimized specifically for imaging biofilms.

  • Easy protocol—just add stain, incubate, and observe
  • Flexibile—monitor multiple aspects of biofilm biology
  • Validated—protocols tested specifically with biofilms

What are biofilms?

‘Biofilms’ is a term for adherent microbial communities. To the unaided eye, biofilms look like slime, but upon closer examination, they are complex architectural microcosms teaming with activity and purpose. ‘Closer examination’ of biofilms is challenging because of the structural elements of the biofilm. A biofilm is composed of cells and an extracellular glue that serves to provide structure and protection.

Visual imaging of the biofilm contextual structure is a key step in the characterization as well as measurement and control of biofilms. Applying contrast reagents to the components helps provide a more detailed level of understanding to this developing science and the real-world applications. Appropriate contrast reagents specifically for biofilms are difficult to find. The FilmTracer product line allows researchers to find biofilm-applicable products more easily, which then may be used to examine and monitor these intricate communities.

Our FilmTracer biofilm stains enable the observation of cells in the context of their EPS. With improved observational details, a better understanding of biofilms will lead to better understanding of how to monitor and control microbes in their communities. These stains are applicable to many biofilm applications including:

  • Dental and oral care research
  • Medical device development
  • Consumer and personal care product development
  • Petroleum and water distribution management


How FilmTracer BioFilm Stains Work

A variety of FilmTracer stains is available for imaging different components of a biofilm. The FilmTracer FM 1-43 dye (Figure 1) stains the cells in a biofilm, whereas FilmTracer SYPRO Ruby reagent stains the matrix. The FilmTracer LIVE/DEAD kit (Figure 2), distinguishes live cells from dead cells within a biofilm. The stains are compatible with biofilm samples that are grown in the laboratory or collected from the environment (rocks, pipes, or catheters). Visualization by confocal laser scanning microscopy gives the best 3D readout of the stained biofilm.

FilmTracer Biofilm Stains
Figure 1. FilmTracer FM 1-43 biofilm stain applied to a Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm. FM 1-43 appears to bind to the cell membrane, and has been shown to work equally well on Staphylococcus epidermidis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli, exhibiting exceptional cell specificity in each case. The image was obtained using a Leica TCS-SP2 AOBS confocal microscope and a 63x/0.9 NA water immersion objective. Image contributed by Betsey Pitts at the Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman.

FilmTracer Biofilm Stains
Figure 2. FilmTracer LIVE/DEAD Biofilm Viability stainsapplied to a Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilm. The green cells and clusters indicate bacterial cells with intact membranes (live). The red cells indicate bacterial cells with damaged membranes (dead). Image contributed by Betsey Pitts at the Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman.

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Read more about biofilms in issue 59 of BioProbes® Journal.