PNAS: Hunting and sorting active microbes with heavy water

Raman cell sorting

Deuterium from heavy water is incorporated into the biomass of active microbial cells. An international team led by Michael Wagner and David Berry now shows that this feature can be exploited for identification of individual active microbial cells in complex communities with NanoSIMS or Raman microspectroscopy after a short sample incubation in the presence of deuterated water. By using Raman microspectroscopy in combination with optical tweezing active microbial cells were also sorted and their genomes were amplified. Thus, this new technique enables microbiologists to perform single cell genomics experiments targeted at microbes with a specific function within their ecosystem.