Fluorescence time-lapse imaging of the complete Streptomyces life cycle using a microfluidic device

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Live-cell imaging of biological processes at the single cell level has been instrumental to our current understanding of the subcellular organization of bacterial cells. However, the application of time-lapse microscopy to study the cell biological processes underpinning development in the sporulating filamentous bacteria Streptomyces has been hampered by technical difficulties. Here we present a protocol to overcome these limitations by growing the new model species, Streptomyces venezuelae, in a commercially available microfluidic device which is connected to an inverted fluorescence widefield microscope. Unlike the classical model species, Streptomyces coelicolor, S. venezuelae sporulates in liquid, allowing the application of microfluidic growth chambers to cultivate and microscopically monitor the cellular development and differentiation of S. venezuelae over long time periods. In addition to monitoring morphological changes, the spatio-temporal distribution of fluorescently labeled target proteins can also be visualized by time-lapse microscopy. Moreover, the microfluidic platform offers the experimental flexibility to exchange the culture medium, which is used in the detailed protocol to stimulate sporulation of S. venezuelae in the microfluidic chamber. Images of the entire S. venezuelae life cycle are acquired at specific intervals and processed in the open-source software Fiji to produce movies of the recorded time-series.