Towards a Detailed Understanding of Bacterial Metabolism—Spectroscopic Characterization of Staphylococcus Epidermidis



Bacteria are a major cause of infection. To fight disease and growing resistance, research interest is focused on understanding bacterial metabolism. For a detailed evaluation of the involved mechanisms, a precise knowledge of the molecular composition of the bacteria is required. In this article, various vibrational spectroscopic techniques are applied to comprehensively characterize, on a molecular level, bacteria of the strain Staphylococcus epidermidis, an opportunistic pathogen which has evolved to become a major cause of nosocomial infections. IR absorption spectroscopy reflects the overall chemical composition of the cells, with major focus on the protein vibrations. Smaller sample volumes—down to a single cell—are sufficient to probe the overall chemical composition by means of micro-Raman spectroscopy. The nucleic-acid and aromatic amino-acid moieties are almost exclusively explored by UV resonance Raman spectroscopy. In combination with statistical evaluation methods [hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA), principal component analysis (PCA), linear discriminant analysis (LDA)], the protein and nucleic-acid components that change during the different bacterial growth phases can be identified from the in vivo vibrational spectra. Furthermore, tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) provides insight into the surface structures and follows the dynamics of the polysaccharide and peptide components on the bacterial cells with a spatial resolution below the diffraction limit. This might open new ways for the elucidation of host–bacteria and drug–bacteria interactions.