Enzyme-mediated hydrogel encapsulation of single cells for high-throughput screening and directed evolution of oxidoreductases

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2019 Aug;116(8):1878-1886. doi: 10.1002/bit.27002. Epub 2019 May 21.


Directed evolution of oxidoreductases to improve their catalytic properties is being ardently pursued in the industrial, biotechnological, and biopharma sectors. Hampering this pursuit are current enzyme screening methods that are limited in terms of throughput, cost, time, and complexity. We present a directed evolution strategy that allows for large-scale one-pot screening of glucose oxidase (GOx) enzyme libraries in well-mixed homogeneous solution. We used GOx variants displayed on the outer cell wall of yeasts to initiate a cascade reaction with horseradish peroxidase (HRP), resulting in peroxidase-mediated phenol cross-coupling and encapsulation of individual cells in well-defined fluorescent alginate hydrogel shells within ~10 min in mixed cell suspensions. Following application of denaturing stress to whole-cell GOx libraries, only cells displaying GOx variants with enhanced stability or catalytic activity were able to carry out the hydrogel encapsulation reaction. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting was then used to isolate the enhanced variants. We characterized three of the newly evolved Aspergillus niger GOx enzyme sequences and found up to ~5-fold higher specific activity, enhanced thermal stability, and differentiable glycosylation patterns. By coupling intracellular gene expression with the rapid formation of an extracellular hydrogel capsule, our system improves high-throughput screening for directed evolution of H 2 O 2 -producing enzymes many folds.

Keywords: cell encapsulation; directed evolution; glucose oxidase; hydrogels; yeast display.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alginates / chemistry
  • Aspergillus niger / enzymology*
  • Aspergillus niger / genetics
  • Biocatalysis
  • Cells, Immobilized* / cytology
  • Cells, Immobilized* / metabolism
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Directed Molecular Evolution / methods
  • Glucose Oxidase / genetics*
  • Hydrogels / chemistry*
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae* / cytology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae* / genetics


  • Alginates
  • Hydrogels
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Glucose Oxidase