High-throughput detection of ethanol-producing cyanobacteria in a microdroplet platform
Sara Abalde-Cela1, Anna Gould1,2, Xin Liu1,3, Elena Kazamia4, Alison G. Smith4 and Chris Abell1
Ethanol production by microorganisms is an important renewable energy source. Most processes involve fermentation of sugars from plant feedstock, but there is increasing interest in direct ethanol production by photosynthetic organisms. To facilitate this, a high-throughput screening technique for the detection of ethanol is required. Here, a method for the quantitative detection of ethanol in a microdroplet-based platform is described that can be used for screening cyanobacterial strains to identify those with the highest ethanol productivity levels. The detection of ethanol by enzymatic assay was optimized both in bulk and in microdroplets. In parallel, the encapsulation of engineered ethanol-producing cyanobacteria in microdroplets and their growth dynamics in microdroplet reservoirs were demonstrated. The combination of modular microdroplet operations including droplet generation for cyanobacteria encapsulation, droplet re-injection and pico-injection, and laser-induced fluorescence, were used to create this new platform to screen genetically engineered strains of cyanobacteria with different levels of ethanol production.