AME 51:237-247 (2008)  -  DOI:

Whole-cell immunocytochemical detection of nitrogenase in cyanobacteria: improved protocol for highly fluorescent cells

Yukiko Taniuchi1,3, Akio Murakami2, Kaori Ohki1,*

1Department of Marine Bioscience, Faculty of Biotechnology, Fukui Prefectural University, 1-1, Gakuencho, Obama, Fukui 917-0003, Japan
2Kobe University Research Center for Inland Seas, 2746, Iwaya, Awaji, Hyogo 656-2401, Japan
3Present address: Department of Marine Biotechnology and Resources, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaoshiung 80424, Taiwan
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: An improved immunocytochemical method was developed to detect nitrogenase in single cells of cyanobacteria using a unicellular diazotrophic strain (Gloeothece sp. 68DGA) and a non-diazotrophic strain (Synechocystis sp. PCC6714) as model organisms. Polyclonal antibodies raised against the Fe-protein and the MoFe-protein (α-subunit) of nitrogenase were used as probes. The antigenicity of nitrogenase was maintained for at least 6 mo when the cells were preserved in chilled methanol (–30°C) after paraformaldehyde fixation (3%). The cells were permeabilized for antibody penetration and non-specific binding was prevented by incubation in phosphate-buffered saline containing dimethyl sulfoxide (10%) and normal rabbit serum (15%). Antibody binding was visualized by a horseradish peroxidase-conjugated secondary antibody and the chromogenic substrate 3-3’-diaminobenzidine tetrachloride because of the difficulty in discriminating between fluorescence from additive fluorochrome and natural autofluorescence from cyanobacteria. Almost all cells (>97%) were immunostained when they were grown diazotrophically and expressed nitrogenase (acetylene reduction) activity. Non-specific staining of both the diazotrophic strains grown with combined nitrogen and the non-diazotrophic strain was negligible. Our protocol was able to detect nitrogenase in unicellular and filamentous non-heterocystous strains without modification.

KEY WORDS: Diazotrophic unicellular cyanobacteria · Marine cyanobacteria · Immunocytochemical detection · Nitrogenase · Unicellular cyanobacteria

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Cite this article as: Taniuchi Y, Murakami A, Ohki K (2008) Whole-cell immunocytochemical detection of nitrogenase in cyanobacteria: improved protocol for highly fluorescent cells. Aquat Microb Ecol 51:237-247.

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