Dielectric properties of human macrophages are altered by Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection

Matthew P. Johnson, Nira Lauterkorn, Rebecca Lewis, Fatima H. Labeed, Suzanne M. Hingley-Wilson, Michael Pycraft Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The analysis of cell electrophysiology for pathogenic samples at BSL3 can be problematic. It is virtually impossible to isolate infected from uninfected without a label, for example green fluorescent protein, which can potentially alter the cell electrical properties. Furthermore, the measurement of highly pathogenic organisms often requires equipment dedicated only for use with these organisms due to safety considerations. To address this, we have used dielectrophoresis to study the electrical properties of the human THP-1 cell line and monocyte-derived macrophages before and after infection with non-labelled Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Infection with these highly pathogenic bacilli resulted in changes including a raised surface conductance (associated with reduced zeta potential) and increased capacitance, suggesting an increase in surface roughness. We have also investigated the effect of fixation on THP-1 cells as a means to enable study on fixed samples in BSL1 or 2 laboratories, which suggests that the properties of these cells are largely unaffected by the fixation process. This advance results in a novel technique enabling the isolation of infected and non-infected cells in a sample without labelling.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • dielectrophoresis
  • electrome
  • fixation
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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