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      Ultrahigh-throughput screening in drop-based microfluidics for directed evolution

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          Abstract

          The explosive growth in our knowledge of genomes, proteomes, and metabolomes is driving ever-increasing fundamental understanding of the biochemistry of life, enabling qualitatively new studies of complex biological systems and their evolution. This knowledge also drives modern biotechnologies, such as molecular engineering and synthetic biology, which have enormous potential to address urgent problems, including developing potent new drugs and providing environmentally friendly energy. Many of these studies, however, are ultimately limited by their need for even-higher-throughput measurements of biochemical reactions. We present a general ultrahigh-throughput screening platform using drop-based microfluidics that overcomes these limitations and revolutionizes both the scale and speed of screening. We use aqueous drops dispersed in oil as picoliter-volume reaction vessels and screen them at rates of thousands per second. To demonstrate its power, we apply the system to directed evolution, identifying new mutants of the enzyme horseradish peroxidase exhibiting catalytic rates more than 10 times faster than their parent, which is already a very efficient enzyme. We exploit the ultrahigh throughput to use an initial purifying selection that removes inactive mutants; we identify approximately 100 variants comparable in activity to the parent from an initial population of approximately 10(7). After a second generation of mutagenesis and high-stringency screening, we identify several significantly improved mutants, some approaching diffusion-limited efficiency. In total, we screen approximately 10(8) individual enzyme reactions in only 10 h, using < 150 microL of total reagent volume; compared to state-of-the-art robotic screening systems, we perform the entire assay with a 1,000-fold increase in speed and a 1-million-fold reduction in cost.

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          Most cited references22

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          Formation of dispersions using “flow focusing” in microchannels

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            Microfluidic large-scale integration.

            We developed high-density microfluidic chips that contain plumbing networks with thousands of micromechanical valves and hundreds of individually addressable chambers. These fluidic devices are analogous to electronic integrated circuits fabricated using large-scale integration. A key component of these networks is the fluidic multiplexor, which is a combinatorial array of binary valve patterns that exponentially increases the processing power of a network by allowing complex fluid manipulations with a minimal number of inputs. We used these integrated microfluidic networks to construct the microfluidic analog of a comparator array and a microfluidic memory storage device whose behavior resembles random-access memory.
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              Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli.

              The role of historical contingency in evolution has been much debated, but rarely tested. Twelve initially identical populations of Escherichia coli were founded in 1988 to investigate this issue. They have since evolved in a glucose-limited medium that also contains citrate, which E. coli cannot use as a carbon source under oxic conditions. No population evolved the capacity to exploit citrate for >30,000 generations, although each population tested billions of mutations. A citrate-using (Cit+) variant finally evolved in one population by 31,500 generations, causing an increase in population size and diversity. The long-delayed and unique evolution of this function might indicate the involvement of some extremely rare mutation. Alternately, it may involve an ordinary mutation, but one whose physical occurrence or phenotypic expression is contingent on prior mutations in that population. We tested these hypotheses in experiments that "replayed" evolution from different points in that population's history. We observed no Cit+ mutants among 8.4 x 10(12) ancestral cells, nor among 9 x 10(12) cells from 60 clones sampled in the first 15,000 generations. However, we observed a significantly greater tendency for later clones to evolve Cit+, indicating that some potentiating mutation arose by 20,000 generations. This potentiating change increased the mutation rate to Cit+ but did not cause generalized hypermutability. Thus, the evolution of this phenotype was contingent on the particular history of that population. More generally, we suggest that historical contingency is especially important when it facilitates the evolution of key innovations that are not easily evolved by gradual, cumulative selection.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                March 02 2010
                March 02 2010
                February 08 2010
                March 02 2010
                : 107
                : 9
                : 4004-4009
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0910781107
                2840095
                20142500
                82b4d81c-8627-41f4-93f2-544490143bf5
                © 2010
                Product
                Self URI (article page): http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0910781107

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