Clinically adaptable polymer enables simultaneous spatial analysis of colonic tissues and biofilms

Mary C. Macedonia, Julia L. Drewes, Nicholas O. Markham, Alan J. Simmons, Joseph T. Roland, Paige N. Vega, Cherie’ R. Scurrah, Robert J. Coffey, Martha J. Shrubsole, Cynthia L. Sears, Ken S. Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Microbial influences on host cells depend upon the identities of the microbes, their spatial localization, and the responses they invoke on specific host cell populations. Multimodal analyses of both microbes and host cells in a spatially resolved fashion would enable studies into these complex interactions in native tissue environments, potentially in clinical specimens. While techniques to preserve each of the microbial and host cell compartments have been used to examine tissues and microbes separately, we endeavored to develop approaches to simultaneously analyze both compartments. Herein, we established an original method for mucus preservation using Poloxamer 407 (also known as Pluronic F-127), a thermoreversible polymer with mucus-adhesive characteristics. We demonstrate that this approach can preserve spatially-defined compartments of the mucus bi-layer in the colon and the bacterial communities within, compared with their marked absence when tissues were processed with traditional formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) pipelines. Additionally, antigens for antibody staining of host cells were preserved and signal intensity for 16S rRNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) was enhanced in poloxamer-fixed samples. This in turn enabled us to integrate multimodal analysis using a modified multiplex immunofluorescence (MxIF) protocol. Importantly, we have formulated Poloxamer 407 to polymerize and cross-link at room temperature for use in clinical workflows. These results suggest that the fixative formulation of Poloxamer 407 can be integrated into biospecimen collection pipelines for simultaneous analysis of microbes and host cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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