Microscope Images Microbes in Soil and Plants

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have developed a custom microscope to image microbes in soil and plants at the micrometer scale. Live imaging of microbes in soil would help scientists understand how soil microbial processes occur on the scale of micrometers, where microbial cells interact with minerals, organic matter, plant roots, and other microorganisms. The approach the LLNL team developed enables a strong signal for general microbe, plant and mineral imaging; high contrast, label-free chemical imaging that can target diagnostic biomolecules and minerals; very strong signals from specific minerals and some biomolecules; and higher information content, deeper penetration, less scattering, and less photodamage compared to confocal microscopy. Using this instrument, the team imaged symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi structures within unstained plant roots in 3D to 60 μm depth. The research appears in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.