Imaging Bacterial Interspecies Chemical Interactions by Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering

Microbes produce bioactive chemical compounds to influence the physiology and growth of their neighbors, and our understanding of their biological activities may be enhanced by our ability to visualize such molecules <i>in vivo</i>. We demonstrate here the application of surface-enhanced Raman scattering spectroscopy for simultaneous detection of quorum-sensing-regulated pyocyanin and violacein, produced respectively by <i>Pseudomonas aeruginosa</i> and <i>Chromobacterium violaceum</i> bacterial colonies, grown as a coculture on agar-based plasmonic substrates. Our plasmonic approach allowed us to visualize the expression and spatial distribution of the microbial metabolites in the coculture taking place as a result of interspecies chemical interactions. By combining surface-enhanced Raman scattering spectroscopy with analysis of gene expression we provide insight into the chemical interplay occurring between the interacting bacterial species. This highly sensitive, cost-effective, and easy to implement approach allows spatiotemporal imaging of cellular metabolites in live microbial colonies grown on agar with no need for sample preparation, thereby providing a powerful tool for the analysis of microbial chemotypes.