A flow cytometry-based screening system for directed evolution of proteases

Ran Tu, Ronny Martinez, Radivoje Prodanovic, Mathias Klein, Ulrich Schwaneberg
Journal of Biomolecular Screening 2011, 16 (3): 285-94
Proteases are industrially important enzymes but often have to be improved for their catalytic efficiency and stabilities to suit applications. Flow cytometry screening technology based on in vitro compartmentalization in double emulsion had been developed and applied on directed evolution of paraoxonase and β-galactosidase. Further advancements of flow cytometry-based screening technologies will enable an ultra-high throughput of variants offering novel opportunities in directed enzyme evolution under high mutational loads. For the industrially important enzyme class of proteases, a first flow cytometry-based screening system for directed protease evolution has been developed based on an extracellular protease-deficient Bacillus subtilis strain (WB800N), a model protease (subtilisin Carlsberg), and a water-in-oil-in-water double-emulsion technology. B. subtilis WB800N cells are encapsulated in double emulsion with a fluorogenic substrate (rhodamine 110-containing peptide), allowing the screening of protease variants in femtoliter compartments at high throughput. The protease screening technology was validated by employing an epPCR mutant library with a high mutational load and screened for increased resistance toward the inhibitor antipain dihydrochloride. A variant (K127R, T237P, M239I, I269V, Y310F, I372V) with an improved relative resistance was isolated from a small population of active variants, validating the reported protease flow cytometry screening technology for increased inhibitor resistance.

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