Summary: The ability of flow cytometry to detect and enumerate viable bacteria during survival in a lakewater microcosm was assessed using as a model organism. Counts of colony-forming units (c.f.u.) on nutrient agar were not significantly different from those obtained by flow cytometric detection of rhodamine 123 stained bacteria and there was no evidence for a viable but nonculturable state using these methods. However c.f.u. were significantly lower when estimated using mannitol salts agar compared with nutrient agar. was also enumerated immunofluorescently after staining with FITC-lgG. There was no significant difference between the population estimated immunofluorescently and by acridine orange direct counting, and unlike estimations of viability, only slight reductions in total cell numbers were observed. Changes in the protein and nucleic acid content of during survival were also measured by flow cytometry to investigate any potential heterogeneity arising within the starved population. Flow cytometric determinations were found to correlate significantly with their respective chemical determinations. These results demonstrate the ability of flow cytometry to detect viable bacteria during starvation and to study changes in macromolecular content. They also illustrate the importance of using appropriate methods for the detection of viable bacteria in environmental samples.


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