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A Zebrafish Embryo Model for In Vivo Visualization and Intravital Analysis of Biomaterial-associated Staphylococcus aureus Infection

Published: January 7th, 2019



1Department of Medical Microbiology, Amsterdam UMC, 2Technical Medical Center, Department of Biomaterials Science and Technology, University of Twente, 3Department of Biomedical Engineering, W.J. Kolff Institute, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, 4Institute of Biology, Leiden University

The present study describes a zebrafish embryo model for in vivo visualization and intravital analysis of biomaterial-associated infection over time based on fluorescence microscopy. This model is a promising system complementing mammalian animal models such as mouse models for studying biomaterial-associated infections in vivo.

Biomaterial-associated infection (BAI) is a major cause of the failure of biomaterials/medical devices. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the major pathogens in BAI. Current experimental BAI mammalian animal models such as mouse models are costly and time-consuming, and therefore not suitable for high throughput analysis. Thus, novel animal models as complementary systems for investigating BAI in vivo are desired. In the present study, we aimed to develop a zebrafish embryo model for in vivo visualization and intravital analysis of bacterial infection in the presence of biomaterials based on fluorescence microscopy. In addition, the provoked macrophage response was studied. To this end, we used fluorescent protein-expressing S. aureus and transgenic zebrafish embryos expressing fluorescent proteins in their macrophages and developed a procedure to inject bacteria alone or together with microspheres into the muscle tissue of embryos. To monitor bacterial infection progression in live embryos over time, we devised a simple but reliable method of microscopic scoring of fluorescent bacteria. The results from microscopic scoring showed that all embryos with more than 20 colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria yielded a positive fluorescent signal of bacteria. To study the potential effects of biomaterials on infection, we determined the CFU numbers of S. aureus with and without 10 µm polystyrene microspheres (PS10) as model biomaterials in the embryos. Moreover, we used the ObjectJ project file "Zebrafish-Immunotest" operating in ImageJ to quantify the fluorescence intensity of S. aureus infection with and without PS10 over time. Results from both methods showed higher numbers of S. aureus in infected embryos with microspheres than in embryos without microspheres, indicating an increased infection susceptibility in the presence of the biomaterial. Thus, the present study shows the potential of the zebrafish embryo model to study BAI with the methods developed here.

A variety of medical devices (referred to as "biomaterials") are increasingly used in modern medicine to restore or replace human body parts1. However, the implantation of biomaterials predisposes a patient to infection, called a biomaterial-associated infection (BAI), which is a major complication of implants in surgery. Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis are two most prevalent bacterial species responsible for BAI2,3,4,5,6. Implanted biom....

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In this protocol, maintenance of adult zebrafish is in compliance with the local animal welfare regulations as approved by the local animal welfare committee. Experiments with embryos were performed according to the 2010/63/EU Directive.

1. Preparation of "Bacteria-only" and Bacteria-microspheres Suspensions

NOTE: The S. aureus RN4220 strain expressing mCherry fluorescent protein (S. aureus-mCherry) is used. The S. aureus.......

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The present study assessed the applicability of zebrafish embryos as a novel vertebrate animal model for investigating biomaterial-associated infection. Microinjection technique has been commonly used to inject different bacterial species into zebrafish embryos to cause infection22,26,27,30,36. Using the procedure depicted in <.......

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Biomaterial-associated infection (BAI) is a serious clinical complication. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of BAI in vivo would provide new insights to improve the prevention and treatment of BAI. However, current experimental BAI animal models such as murine models are costly, labor-intensive, and require specialized personnel trained in complex surgical techniques. Therefore, these models are not suitable for high throughput analysis. Since requirements for zebrafish embryo models are less complex and costs .......

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This study was financially supported by the IBIZA project of the BioMedical Material (BMM) program and co-funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Graham Lieschke from Monash University, Australia for providing the zebrafish transgenic line (mpeg1:Gal4/UAS:Kaede).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Tryptic soya agar BD Difco 236950 Media preparation unit at AMC
Tryptic soya broth BD Difco 211825
Polyvinylpyrrolidone40 Applichem A2259.0250
10 µm diameter polystyrene microspheres (blue fluorescent) Life technology/ThemoFisher F8829
Glass microcapilary (1 mm O.D. x 0.78 mm I.D.) Harvard Apparatus 30-0038
Micropipette puller instrument Sutter Instrument Inc Flaming p-97
Light microscope LM 20 Leica MDG33 10450123
3-aminobenzoic acid (Tricaine) Sigma-Aldrich E10521-50G
Agarose MP Roche 11388991001
Stereo fluorescent microscope LM80 Leica MDG3610450126
Microloader pipette tips Eppendorf 5242956.003
Micromanipulator M3301 with M10 stand World Precision Instruments 00-42-101-0000
FemtoJet express micro-injector Eppendorf 5248ZO100329
Microtrube 2ml pp Sarstedt 72.693.005
Zirconia beads Bio-connect 11079124ZX
MagNA lyser Roche 41416401
MSA-2 plates (Mannitol Salt Agar-2) Biomerieux 43671 Chapmon 2 medium
Methyl cellulose 4000cp Sigma-Aldrich MO512-250G
Chloramphenicol Sigma-Aldrich C0378
Gyrotory shaker (for bacterial growth) New Brunswick Scientific G10
Zebrafish incubator VWR Incu-line
Cuvettes BRAND 759015
Centrifuge Hettich-Zentrifugen ROTANTA 460R
Spectrometer Pharmacia biotech Ultrospec®2000
Forceps Sigma-Aldrich F6521-1EA
48 well-plates Greiner bio-one 677180
96 well-plates Greiner bio-one 655161
Petri-dish Falcon 353003
Petri-dish Biomerieux NL-132
ImageJ Not applicable Not applicable link:
GraphPad 7.0 Prism Not applicable

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