The Flagella Staining

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A flagella stain of Bacillus cereus, a common cause of foodborne illness, reveals that the cells have numerous flagella, used for locomotion. (credit: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

OpenStax Microbiology

Flagella (singular: flagellum) are tail-like cellular structures used for locomotion by some bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes. Because they are so thin, flagella typically cannot be seen under a light microscope without a specialized flagella staining technique. Flagella staining thickens the flagella by first applying mordant (generally tannic acid, but sometimes potassium alum), which coats the flagella; then the specimen is stained with pararosaniline (most commonly) or basic fuchsin.

Though flagella staining is uncommon in clinical settings, the technique is commonly used by microbiologists, since the location and number of flagella can be useful in classifying and identifying bacteria in a sample. When using this technique, it is important to handle the specimen with great care; flagella are delicate structures that can easily be damaged or pulled off, compromising attempts to accurately locate and count the number of flagella.

(credit “basic stains”: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; credit “Acidic stains”: modification of work by Roberto Danovaro, Antonio Dell’Anno, Antonio Pusceddu, Cristina Gambi, Iben Heiner, Reinhardt Mobjerg Kristensen; credit “Negative stains”: modification of work by Anh-Hue Tu)
(credit “Gram stain”: modification of work by Nina Parker; credit “Acid-fast stain”: modification of work by American Society for Microbiology; credit “Endospore stain”: modification of work by American Society for Microbiology; credit “Capsule stain” : modification of work by American Society for Microbiology; credit “Flagella stain”: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Source:

Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology


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