Evaluation of positron emission tomography as a method to visualize subsurface microbial processes

Karen Kinsella, David J. Schlyer, Joanna S. Fowler, Robert J. Martinez, Patricia A. Sobecky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Positron emission tomography (PET) provides spatiotemporal monitoring in a nondestructive manner and has higher sensitivity and resolution relative to other tomographic methods. Therefore, this technology was evaluated for its application to monitor in situ subsurface bacterial activity. To date, however, it has not been used to monitor or image soil microbial processes. In this study, PET imaging was applied as a "proof-of-principle" method to assess the feasibility of visualizing a radiotracer labeled subsurface bacterial strain (Rahnella sp. Y9602), previously isolated from uranium contaminated soils and shown to promote uranium phosphate precipitation. Soil columns packed with acid-purified simulated mineral soils were seeded with 2-deoxy-2-[ 18F]fluoro-d-glucose ( 18FDG) labeled Rahnella sp. Y9602. The applicability of [ 18F]fluoride ion as a tracer for measuring hydraulic conductivity and 18FDG as a tracer to identify subsurface metabolically active bacteria was successful in our soil column studies. Our findings indicate that positron-emitting isotopes can be utilized for studies aimed at elucidating subsurface microbiology and geochemical processes important in contaminant remediation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-501
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - 30 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioremediation
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Rahnella sp. Y9602
  • Subsurface


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