Biologists have long attempted to understand the relationship between phenotype and genotype. To better understand this connection, it is crucial to develop practical technologies that couple microscopic cell screening with cell isolation at high purity for downstream genetic analysis. Here, the use of photodegradable poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels for screening and isolation of bacteria with unique growth phenotypes from heterogeneous cell populations is described. The method relies on encapsulating or entrapping cells with the hydrogel, followed by culture, microscopic screening, then use of a high-resolution light patterning tool for spatiotemporal control of hydrogel degradation and release of selected cells into a solution for retrieval. Applying different light patterns allows for control over the morphology of the extracted cell, and patterns such as rings or crosses can be used to retrieve cells with minimal direct UV light exposure to mitigate DNA damage to the isolates. Moreover, the light patterning tool delivers an adjustable light dose to achieve various degradation and cell release rates. It allows for degradation at high resolution, enabling cell retrieval with micron-scale spatial precision. Here, the use of this material to screen and retrieve bacteria from both bulk hydrogels and microfabricated lab-on-a-chip devices is demonstrated. The method is inexpensive, simple, and can be used for common and emerging applications in microbiology, including isolation of bacterial strains with rare growth profiles from mutant libraries and isolation of bacterial consortia with emergent phenotypes for genomic characterizations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Neuroscience
- General Chemical Engineering
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology