Advanced Phenotypic Analysis


For Immediate Release
Feb 20, 2013
Contact: Susan Murphy
Biolog, Inc.
(510) 785-2564 ext.360

Regulation of Microbial Toxin Production: A Novel Application of Biolog's Phenotype MicroArrayTM Technology

Hayward, CA - February 20, 2013 - In a paper published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists from Biolog, Inc. reported on the use of Phenotype MicroArray technology as a general method that enables the determination of environmental signals that can activate or repress production of toxins by pathogenic microorganisms. This technological achievement has important applications ranging from health care to food safety to bioterrorism. Link to article:

Toxins produced by microorganisms are typically diverse, unique, and with wide ranging effects. Generally speaking they produce morbidity and mortality, but some toxins, such as Botox®, can also have beneficial uses. Microbes that produce toxins typically do so under very specific culture conditions, for example when the microbes are under stress. Prior to Biolog's advance, there was no systematic way to determine the conditions and key factors that regulate toxin production.

Biolog scientist, Dr. Xiang-He Lei, focused his work on toxin production by the life-threatening anaerobic bacterium, Clostridium difficile (Cdiff). During the past decade the incidence and severity of Cdiff infections has increased dramatically, resulting in 15,000 to 20,000 deaths per year in the United States from this toxin-producing microbe.

Dr. Lei made two important advances as reported in the PLOS ONE publication. First he employed Phenotype MicroArray technology to culture Cdiff under hundreds of diverse culture conditions in microscale format. Then he developed a simple yet general and quantitative method for screening and detecting toxin production under these hundreds of conditions using a sensitive indicator cell line in conjunction with Biolog's detection chemistry. Analyzing a commonly studied strain of Cdiff, he found both conditions that activate and conditions that repress toxin production. The range of toxin production fluctuated more than five thousand fold.

According to Dr. Barry Bochner, CEO and CSO at Biolog and coauthor of the study, "This recent work demonstrates yet another groundbreaking use of Biolog's Phenotype MicroArray technology. It is important to know conditions that activate toxin production to understand the biology of toxin production as well as to be able to produce supplies of toxin for research and anti-toxin production. It is important to know conditions that repress toxin production, as this information could lead to treatments to suppress flare ups of Cdiff infection."

Importantly, the paper goes on to show that this same method can be applied to measure regulation of toxin production by other toxin-producing microorganisms including Clostridium perfringens, tetani, and sordellii, Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli O157, Shigella dysenteriae, and Listeria monocytogenes.

In the future this same technology may enable the discovery of new toxins that avoided previous detection because cells that could produce the toxins were not cultured under toxin-inducing conditions. Such novel toxins could have uses as anti-microbial or anti-cancer agents. This breakthrough research was supported in part by an STTR Grant from NIH NIGMS (GM073965).

Phenotype MicroArray technology, initially developed with SBIR funding from NIH, is proving to be a cell profiling technology that can yield breakthrough discoveries. It allows scientists to study the growth properties and culture condition responses of bacterial, fungal, and even human cells. As such it is becoming a core technology for many cellular studies.

About Biolog
Biolog is a privately held company based in Hayward, CA, that continues to lead in the development of powerful new cell analysis tools for solving critical problems in biological, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological research and development. It is the world leader in phenotypic cell profiling. Biolog's advanced phenotypic analysis technology is unique in its broad applicability to cells – this includes bacterial cells and fungal cells as well as animal cells. More than 260 scientific publications and presentations document the effectiveness and productivity of PM technology. The PM product line adds to the innovative microbial identification products offered by the company, such as the new GEN III System. Biolog products are available worldwide, either directly from the company or through its extensive network of international distributors. Further information can be obtained at Biolog's website,