MBio 13 (1) e0002222 [2022-02-01; online 2022-02-01]
Interactions between individual pathogenic microbes and host tissues involve fast and dynamic processes that ultimately impact the outcome of infection. Using live-cell microscopy, these dynamics can be visualized to study, e.g., microbe motility, binding and invasion of host cells, and intrahost-cell survival. Such methodology typically employs confocal imaging of fluorescent tags in tumor-derived cell line infections on glass. This allows high-definition imaging but poorly reflects the host tissue's physiological architecture and may result in artifacts. We developed a method for live-cell imaging of microbial infection dynamics on human adult stem cell-derived intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) layers. These IEC layers are grown in apical imaging chambers, optimized for physiological cell arrangement and fast, but gentle, differential interference contrast (DIC) imaging. This allows subsecond visualization of both microbial and epithelial surface ultrastructure at high resolution without using fluorescent reporters. We employed this technology to probe the behavior of two model pathogens, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Giardia intestinalis, at the intestinal epithelial surface. Our results reveal pathogen-specific swimming patterns on the epithelium and show that Salmonella lingers on the IEC surface for prolonged periods before host cell invasion, while Giardia uses circular swimming with intermittent attachments to scout for stable adhesion sites. The method even permits tracking of individual Giardia flagella, demonstrating that active flagellar beating and attachment to the IEC surface are not mutually exclusive. This work describes a generalizable and relatively inexpensive approach to resolving dynamic pathogen-IEC layer interactions, applicable even to genetically nontractable microorganisms. IMPORTANCE Knowledge of dynamic niche-specific interactions between single microbes and host cells is essential to understand infectious disease progression. However, advances in this field have been hampered by the inherent conflict between the technical requirements for high-resolution live-cell imaging on the one hand and conditions that best mimic physiological infection niche parameters on the other. Toward bridging this divide, we present a methodology for differential interference contrast (DIC) imaging of pathogen interactions at the apical surface of enteroid-derived intestinal epithelia, providing both high spatial and temporal resolution. This alleviates the need for fluorescent reporters in live-cell imaging and provides dynamic information about microbe interactions with a nontransformed, confluent, polarized, and microvilliated human gut epithelium. Using this methodology, we uncover previously unrecognized stages of Salmonella and Giardia infection cycles at the epithelial surface.