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Raman microspectroscopy, surface-enhanced Raman scattering microspectroscopy, and stable-isotope Raman microspectroscopy for biofilm characterization

Abstract

Biofilms represent the predominant form of microbial life on our planet. These aggregates of microorganisms, which are embedded in a matrix formed by extracellular polymeric substances, may colonize nearly all interfaces. Detailed knowledge of microorganisms enclosed in biofilms as well as of the chemical composition, structure, and functions of the complex biofilm matrix and their changes at different stages of the biofilm formation and under various physical and chemical conditions is relevant in different fields. Important research topics include the development and improvement of antibiotics and medical devices and the optimization of biocides, antifouling strategies, and biological wastewater treatment. Raman microspectroscopy is a capable and nondestructive tool that can provide detailed two-dimensional and three-dimensional chemical information about biofilm constituents with the spatial resolution of an optical microscope and without interference from water. However, the sensitivity of Raman microspectroscopy is rather limited, which hampers the applicability of Raman microspectroscopy especially at low biomass concentrations. Fortunately, the resonance Raman effect as well as surface-enhanced Raman scattering can help to overcome this drawback. Furthermore, the combination of Raman microspectroscopy with other microscopic techniques, mass spectrometry techniques, or particularly with stable-isotope techniques can provide comprehensive information on monospecies and multispecies biofilms. Here, an overview of different Raman microspectroscopic techniques, including resonance Raman microspectroscopy and surface-enhanced Raman scattering microspectroscopy, for in situ detection, visualization, identification, and chemical characterization of biofilms is given, and the main feasibilities and limitations of these techniques in biofilm research are presented. Future possibilities of and challenges for Raman microspectroscopy alone and in combination with other analytical techniques for characterization of complex biofilm matrices are discussed in a critical review.

Applicability of Raman microspectroscopy for biofilm analysis

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, project IV 110/2-1) and the Helmholtz Wasserzentrum München within the Helmholtz Water Network for financial support.

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Correspondence to Natalia P. Ivleva.

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Ivleva, N.P., Kubryk, P. & Niessner, R. Raman microspectroscopy, surface-enhanced Raman scattering microspectroscopy, and stable-isotope Raman microspectroscopy for biofilm characterization. Anal Bioanal Chem 409, 4353–4375 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-017-0303-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-017-0303-0

Keywords

  • Biofilm
  • Microorganisms
  • Extracellular polymeric substances
  • Biofilm characterization
  • Raman microspectroscopy
  • Resonance Raman microspectroscopy
  • Surface-enhanced Raman scattering
  • Stable-isotope Raman microspectroscopy