Production of inactivated gram-positive and gram-negative species with preserved cellular morphology and integrity

Rahwa Taddese, Clara Belzer, Steven Aalvink, Marien I. de Jonge, Iris D. Nagtegaal, Bas E. Dutilh, Annemarie Boleij*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There are many approaches available to produce inactive bacteria by termination of growth, each with a different efficacy, impact on cell integrity, and potential for application in standardized inactivation protocols. The aim of this study was to compare these approaches and develop a standardized protocol for generation of inactivated Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, yielding cells that are metabolically dead with retained cellular integrity i.e., preserving the surface and limited leakage of intracellular proteins and DNA. These inactivated bacteria are required for various applications, for instance, when investigating receptor-triggered signaling or bacterial contact-dependent analysis of cell lines requiring long incubation times. We inactivated eight different bacterial strains of different species by treatment with beta-propiolactone, ethanol, formalin, sodium hydroxide, and pasteurization. Inactivation efficacy was determined by culturing, and cell wall integrity assessed by quantifying released DNA, bacterial membrane and intracellular DNA staining, and visualization by scanning electron microscopy. Based on these results, we discuss the bacterial inactivation methods, and their advantages and disadvantages to study host-microbe interactions with inactivated bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106208
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
Early online date22 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Bacterial ghosts
  • Bacterial inactivation
  • Beta-propiolactone
  • Heat-treatment
  • Pasteurization
  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Standardized protocol


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