guide to bacterial colony
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Published On: January 12th, 2021Categories: Articles, Colony Picking

A majority of life science research involves culturing and testing microbes, especially bacteria. In culturing these microbial samples, the lab often needs to pick a specific colony and duplicate it. So what is a bacterial colony, and why is it so vital in biological research? A bacterial colony is a mass of bacteria grown from a single mother cell, typically on a solid agar medium.

By culturing a bacterial colony from a single cell, researchers will have reliable, pure material for testing or production of proteins. Read on for more information.

Bacterial Colony Morphology

Describing a bacterial colony’s characteristics is important in any research as it helps with bacteria identification. It also enables you to select the right colony for use in the next stage of a process flow.

Growing a colony for this purpose usually involves spreading a sample of bacteria on a culture plate. You then need to identify bacteria with a colony picking protocol, and that requires you to be familiar with bacterial colony morphology. Different species of bacteria can present other physical characteristics when grown on an agar medium as described below:

  • Form – Describes the basic shape of the colony when viewed from the top—which includes circular, irregular, filamentous, and rhizoid.
  • Elevation – Describes the cross-sectional shape of the colony when viewed from the side. Includes raised, flat, convex, umbonate, crateriform, and pulvinate elevations.
  • Margin – Describes the shape of the edge of the colony when magnified. Common examples include entire (smooth), undulate (wavy), erose (serrated), filamentous, lobate, and curled.
  • Surface – Describes how the surface of the colony looks. Examples include smooth, rough, glistening, dull, rugose, mucoid, viscous, etc.
  • Opacity – Describes the bacterial colony’s opacity, such as opaque, transparent, translucent, and iridescent.
  • Color – Describes the color of the colony, which can be white, red, purple, etc.

Uses of Bacterial Colonies in Life Science

Culturing bacterial samples and selecting a specific colony is used in many applications, including microbiome studies, biofuels research, and more. Since research labs require high throughput and accuracy, many utilize tools like colony picking robots and automated liquid handling machines when processing their samples.

Colony culturing and picking are often part of complex and extensive workflows, making growing and replicating the right bacterial colonies essential. The bacterial colonies produced are often used in colony PCR, protein purification, mass spectrometry, enzymatic assays, and various other processes.

Automation When Working with Bacterial Colonies

Like many laboratory research aspects, the growing and picking of bacterial colonies can be automated with robotics and automation software.

In fact, labs can use automation throughout the workflow, from preparing the bacterial samples for plating to isolating the molecules or proteins of choice from the picked colonies.

A colony picking robot can accurately select the required bacterial colony by using advanced imaging hardware and algorithms. It can determine how many cells are in a colony, on the average from colony size, automatically identify the desired colonies according to customizable parameters such as radius, color, or separation and pick the colonies that fit the preset parameters. It can also automatically record and store information on the selected colonies ensuring you have complete documentation.

Working with bacterial colonies is an essential part of any biological lab as they are often the main component used in research and within the production of proteins and enzymes. Therefore, accurately identifying colony morphology and picking the right colony can significantly improve your lab results.

Other things to consider:

How does the morphology of bacterial colonies influence their identification and selection for downstream applications?

Understanding the morphology of bacterial colonies is pivotal in microbiological research, particularly for identifying and selecting colonies for further experimentation. Different species of bacteria exhibit distinct physical characteristics when grown on agar mediums, including form, elevation, margin, surface, opacity, and color. These characteristics serve as key identifiers, guiding researchers in selecting the appropriate colonies for subsequent processes. For instance, circular or irregular forms, raised or flat elevations, and smooth or wavy margins are indicative of specific bacterial species. By leveraging colony morphology, researchers can ensure the reliability and purity of microbial cultures, facilitating accurate downstream analyses and applications.

What are the challenges and benefits associated with automating colony picking and liquid handling processes in the laboratory?

While automation offers significant benefits in colony culturing and picking workflows, it also presents unique challenges and considerations. Implementing automation solutions, such as colony picking robots and automated liquid handling machines, requires initial setup costs, integration with existing laboratory infrastructure, and ongoing maintenance efforts. However, the benefits of automation are manifold. Automation enhances throughput, accuracy, and consistency in experimental outcomes, ultimately improving research efficiency and productivity. By streamlining labor-intensive tasks and reducing human error, automation empowers researchers to focus on data analysis and interpretation, accelerating scientific discoveries in microbiology and related fields.

How can advanced imaging hardware and algorithms enhance the accuracy and efficiency of colony picking robots in selecting desired bacterial colonies?

Colony picking robots leverage advanced imaging hardware and algorithms to precisely select bacterial colonies based on customizable parameters such as radius, color, and separation. These sophisticated technologies enable robots to scan and analyze agar plates rapidly, identifying colonies that meet preset criteria with unparalleled accuracy. Moreover, integrated data recording and storage functionalities ensure comprehensive documentation, facilitating traceability and reproducibility in experimental workflows. By harnessing advanced imaging capabilities, colony picking robots optimize efficiency and reliability in colony selection, paving the way for accelerated research and innovation in microbiology and beyond.

For more information on bacterial colony picking and colony picking lab equipment, contact Hudson Robotics today.