Astrobiology August 2008, 8(4): 859-874.
The identification of extant and, in some cases, extinct bacterial life is most convincingly and efficiently performed with modern high-resolution microscopy. Epifluorescence microscopy of microbial autofluorescence or in conjunction with fluorescent dyes is among the most useful of these techniques.
We explored fluorescent labeling and imaging of bacteria in rock and soil in the context of in situ life detection for planetary exploration. The goals were two-fold: to target nonEarth-centric biosignatures with the greatest possible sensitivity and to develop labeling procedures amenable to robotic implementation with technologies that are currently space qualified. A wide panel of commercially available dyes that target specific biosignature molecules was screened, and those with desirable properties (i.e., minimal binding to minerals, strong autofluorescence contrast, no need for wash steps) were identified. We also explored the potential of semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) as bacterial and space probes. A specific instrument for space implementation is suggested and discussed.
Astrobiology 8, 859874.
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