Microdroplet screening and selection for improved microbial production of extracellular compounds

Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2020 Feb;61:72-81. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2019.10.007. Epub 2019 Nov 24.


Microorganisms produce extracellular compounds that affect the final product quality in fermentation processes. Selection of overproducing mutants requires coupling of the extracellular product to the producer genotype, which can be achieved by single-cell compartmentalization. Emulsions contain up to billions of microdroplets/mL which significantly increases the screening throughput compared to microtiter-plate-based selections. Factors affecting the success of screening in microdroplets include the nature of the producing organism (robust, no invasive growth), the product (not soluble in oil) and the product assay (preferably fluorescence based). Together these factors determine the required microdroplet production technique and sorting set-up. Because microdroplets allow relatively inexpensive ultrahigh-throughput screening, they are likely to become a standard tool in the strain selection toolbox of the fermentation industry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fermentation