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Distinct Effects of Chemical Toxicity and Radioactivity on Metabolic Heat of Cultured Cells Revealed by “Isotope-Editing”

Oertel, J.; Sachs, S.; Flemming, K.; Hassan Obeid, M.; Fahmy, K.


Studying the toxicity of chemical compounds using isothermal microcalorimetry (IMC), which monitors the metabolic heat from living microorganisms, is a rapidly expanding field. The unprecedented sensitivity of IMC is particularly attractive for studies at low levels of stressors, where lethality-based data are inadequate. We have revealed via IMC the effect of low dose rates from radioactive β−-decay on bacterial metabolism. The low dose rate regime (<400 µGyh−1) is typical of radioactively contaminated environmental sites, where chemical toxicity and radioactivity-mediated effects coexist without a predominance or specific characteristic of either of them. We found that IMC allows distinguishing the two sources of metabolic interference on the basis of “isotope-editing” and advanced thermogram analyses. The stable and radioactive europium isotopes 153Eu and 152Eu, respectively, were employed in monitoring Lactococcus lactis cultures via IMC. β−-emission (electrons) was found to increase initial culture growth by increased nutrient uptake efficiency, which compensates for a reduced maximal cell division rate. Direct adsorption of the radionuclide to the biomass, revealed by mass spectrometry, is critical for both the initial stress response and the “dilution” of radioactivity-mediated damage at later culture stages, which are dominated by the chemical toxicity of Eu.

Keywords: bacteria; growth rate; isothermal microcalorimetry; low dose; metabolic monitoring


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