In response to needs for in situ thermometry, a temperature-sensitive vector was adapted to report changes in the intracellular heat content of Escherichia coli in near-real time. This model system utilized vectors expressing increasing quantities of β-galactosidase in response to stepwise temperature increases through a biologically relevant range (22 to 45°C). As judged by calibrated fluorometric and colorimetric reporters, both whole E. coli cells and lysates expressed significant repeatable changes in β-galactosidase activity that were sensitive to temperature changes of less than 1°C (35 to 45°C). This model system suggests that changes in cellular heat content can be detected independently of the medium in which cells are maintained, a feature of particular importance where the medium is heterogeneous or nonaqueous, or otherwise has a low heat transfer capacity. We report here that the intracellular temperature can be reliably obtained in near-real time using reliable fluorescent reporting systems from cellular scales, with a 20°C range of detection and at least 0.7°C sensitivity between 35 and 45°C
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