Hydrogen peroxide staining to visualize intracellular bacterial infections of seedling root cells

James F. White, Mónica S. Torres, Mohini P. Somu, Holly Johnson, Ivelisse Irizarry, Qiang Chen, Ning Zhang, Emily Walsh, Mariusz Tadych, Marshall Bergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Visualization of bacteria in living plant cells and tissues is often problematic due to lack of stains that pass through living plant cell membranes and selectively stain bacterial cells. In this article, we report the use of 3,3′-diaminobenzidine tetrachloride (DAB) to stain hydrogen peroxide associated with bacterial invasion of eukaryotic cells. Tissues were counterstained with aniline blue/lactophenol to stain protein in bacterial cells. Using this staining method to visualize intracellular bacterial (Burkholderia gladioli) colonization of seedling roots of switch grass (Panicum virgatum), we compared bacterial free seedling roots and those inoculated with the bacterium. To further assess application of the technique in multiple species of vascular plants, we examined vascular plants for seedling root colonization by naturally occurring seed-transmitted bacteria. Colonization by bacteria was only observed to occur within epidermal (including root hairs) and cortical cells of root tissues, suggesting that bacteria may not be penetrating deeply into root tissues. DAB/peroxidase with counter stain aniline blue/lactophenol was effective in penetration of root cells to selectively stain bacteria. Furthermore, this stain combination permitted the visualization of the bacterial lysis process. Before any evidence of H2O2 staining, intracellular bacteria were seen to stain blue for protein content with aniline blue/lactophenol. After H2O2 staining became evident, bacteria were often swollen, without internal staining by aniline blue/lactophenol; this suggests loss of protein content. This staining method was effective for seedling root tissues; however, it was not effective at staining bacteria in shoot tissues due to poor penetration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-573
Number of pages8
JournalMicroscopy Research and Technique
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Instrumentation
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


  • Hydrogen peroxide staining
  • Intracellular bacteria
  • Light microscopy
  • Symbiosis


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