Bacterial Stress Responses To 1-Megahertz Pulsed Ultrasound In The Presence Of Microbubbles

Elizabeth Ann Vallen, Swarthmore College
Sylvia D. Sakyiama Kwakye , '98, Swarthmore College
Matthew Evan Halpern , '98, Swarthmore College
E. Carr Everbach, Swarthmore College

This work is freely available courtesy of American Society for Microbiology.


Members of a panel of stress-responsive biosensors have been used to study the effect of megahertz frequency ultrasound onEscherichia coli. Insonification causes acoustic cavitation, the collapse of oscillating microbubbles in solution, which can damage bacterial cells. A focused 1-MHz ultrasound transducer, capable of generating a spatial peak pulse average intensity of 500 W/cm2, was used to treat liquid bacterial cultures. Stress-responsive promoters fused to luxCDABE allowed the continuous measurement of light produced as a result of protein damage, DNA damage, oxidative stress, and membrane perturbation. A promoter responsive to ammonia limitation was not transcriptionally activated under test conditions. In contrast to bacteria in exponentially growing cultures, those in stationary-phase cultures were more resistant to the effects of ultrasound treatment. Quantification of the degree of acoustic cavitation due to symmetric bubble collapse was measured by a 20-MHz passive transducer, the output of which appears to be only partially correlated with cellular damage and survival. The methods and results summarized here provide the basis for further investigation into applications, including the purification of water samples.