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Vibrio identification by means of traditional microbiological methods is time consuming because of the many biochemical tests that have to be performed to distinguish closely related species. This work aimed at evaluating the use of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry for the rapid identification of Vibrio (V.) spp. as an advantageous application to rapidly discriminate the most important Vibrio spp. and distinguish Vibrio spp. from closely related bacterial species like Photobacterium damselae and Grimontia hollisae and other aquatic bacteria like Aeromonas spp.
Starting from sub-colony amounts of pure cultures grown on agar plates, a very simple sample preparation procedure was established and combined with a rapid and automated measurement protocol that allowed species identification within minutes. Closely related species like Vibrio alginolyticus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus or Vibrio cholerae and Vibrio mimicus could thus be differentiated by defining signatures of species-identifying biomarker ions (SIBIs). As a reference method for species designation and for determination of relationships between strains with molecular markers, partial rpoB gene sequencing was applied.
The MALDI-TOF MS-based method as well as the rpoB sequence-based approach for Vibrio identification described in this study produced comparable classification results. The construction of phylogenetic trees from MALDI-TOF MS and rpoB sequences revealed a very good congruence of both methods.
Our results suggest that whole-cell MALDI-TOF MS-based proteometric characterization represents a powerful tool for rapid and accurate classification and identification of Vibrio spp. and related species.