Double emulsion flow cytometry with high-throughput single droplet isolation and nucleic acid recovery†
Droplet microfluidics has made large impacts in diverse areas such as enzyme evolution, chemical product screening, polymer engineering, and single-cell analysis. However, while droplet reactions have become increasingly sophisticated, phenotyping droplets by a fluorescent signal and sorting them to isolate individual variants-of-interest at high-throughput remains challenging. Here, we present sdDE-FACS (ingle roplet ouble mulsion-FACS), a new method that uses a standard flow cytometer to phenotype, select, and isolate individual double emulsion droplets of interest. Using a 130 μm nozzle at high sort frequency (12–14 kHz), we demonstrate detection of droplet fluorescence signals with a dynamic range spanning 5 orders of magnitude and robust post-sort recovery of intact double emulsion (DE) droplets using 2 commercially-available FACS instruments. We report the first demonstration of single double emulsion droplet isolation with post-sort recovery efficiencies >70%, equivalent to the capabilities of single-cell FACS. Finally, we establish complete downstream recovery of nucleic acids from single, sorted double emulsion droplets via qPCR with little to no cross-contamination. sdDE-FACS marries the full power of droplet microfluidics with flow cytometry to enable a variety of new droplet assays, including rare variant isolation and multiparameter single-cell analysis.