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High-Throughput Steady-State Enzyme Kinetics Measured in a Parallel Droplet Generation and Absorbance Detection Platform.

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van Vliet, Liisa 
Hollfelder, Florian  ORCID logo


Microfluidic water-in-oil emulsion droplets are becoming a mainstay of experimental biology, where they replace the classical test tube. In most applications, such as ultrahigh-throughput directed evolution, the droplet content is identical for all compartmentalized assay reactions. When emulsion droplets are used for kinetics or other functional assays, though, concentration dependencies of initial rates that define Michaelis-Menten parameters are required. Droplet-on-demand systems satisfy this need, but extracting large amounts of data is challenging. Here, we introduce a multiplexed droplet absorbance detector, which─coupled to semi-automated droplet generation─forms a tubing-based droplet-on-demand system able to generate and extract quantitative datasets from defined concentration gradients across multiple series of droplets for multiple time points. The emergence of a product is detected by reading the absorbance of the droplet sets at multiple, adjustable time points by reversing the flow direction after each detection, so that the droplets pass a line scan camera multiple times. Detection multiplexing allows absorbance values at 12 distinct positions to be measured, and enzyme kinetics are recorded for label-free concentration gradients that are composed of about 60 droplets each, covering as many concentrations. With a throughput of around 8640 data points per hour, a 10-fold improvement compared to the previously reported single point detection method is achieved. In a single experiment, 12 full datasets of high-resolution and high-accuracy Michaelis-Menten kinetics were determined to demonstrate the potential for enzyme characterization for glycosidase substrates covering a range in enzymatic hydrolysis of 7 orders of magnitude in kcat/KM. The straightforward setup, high throughput, excellent data quality, and wide dynamic range that allows coverage of diverse activities suggest that this system may serve as a miniaturized spectrophotometer for detailed analysis of clones emerging from large-scale combinatorial experiments.




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Anal Chem

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American Chemical Society (ACS)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/H046593/1)
BBSRC (BB/T003545/1)