Fluorescence-activated droplet sorting of lipolytic microorganisms using a compact optical system
Lipases are ubiquitous enzymes of great physiological significance that have been used extensively in multiple industries. Environmental microorganisms are a major source for the discovery of novel lipases with high catalytic efficiency and selectivity. However, current plate-based screening of lipase-producing strains is time consuming, labour intensive and inefficient. In this study, we developed an ultra-high throughput screening pipeline for lipase-producing strains based on fluorescence-activated droplet sorting (FADS) using a compact optical system that could be easily set up in an alignment-free manner. The pipeline includes droplet generation, droplet incubation, picoinjection of the fluorescence probe, and sorting of droplets with a throughput of 2 × 106 drops per h. We applied the pipeline to screen samples collected from different locations, including sediments from a hot spring in Tibet, soils from the Zoige wetland, contaminated soils from an abandoned oilfield, and a Chinese Daqu starter. In total, we obtained 47 lipase-producing bacterial strains belonging to seven genera, including Staphylococcus, Bacillus, Enterobacter, Serratia, Prolinoborus, Acinetobacter, and Leclercia. We believe that this FADS-based pipeline could be extended to screen various enzymes from the environment, and may find wide applications in breeding of industrial microorganisms.