Robert Huber, Daniel Ritter, Till Hering, Ann-Kathrin Hillmer, Frank Kensy, Carsten Müller, Le Wang, Jochen Büchs:
Robo-Lector - a novel platform for automated high-throughput cultivations in microtiter plates with high information content
Microbial Cell Factories, 2009, 8:42
Background: In industry and academic research, there is an increasing demand for flexible automated microfermentation platforms with advanced sensing technology. However, up to now, conventional platforms cannot generate continuous data in high-throughput cultivations, in particular for monitoring biomass and fluorescent proteins. Furthermore, microfermentation platforms are needed that can easily combine cost-effective, disposable microbioreactors with downstream processing and analytical assays. Results: To meet this demand, a novel automated microfermentation platform consisting of a BioLector and a liquid-handling robot (Robo-Lector) was sucessfully built and tested. The BioLector provides a cultivation system that is able to permanently monitor microbial growth and the fluorescence of reporter proteins under defined conditions in microtiter plates. Three examplary methods were programed on the Robo-Lector platform to study in detail high-throughput cultivation processes and especially recombinant protein expression. The host/vector system E. coli BL21(DE3) pRhotHi-2-EcFbFP, expressing the fluorescence protein EcFbFP, was hereby investigated. With the method 'induction profiling' it was possible to conduct 96 different induction experiments (varying inducer concentrations from 0 to 1.5 mM IPTG at 8 different induction times) simultaneously in an automated way. The method 'biomass-specific induction' allowed to automatically induce cultures with different growth kinetics in a microtiter plate at the same biomass concentration, which resulted in a relative standard deviation of the EcFbFP production of only ± 7%. The third method 'biomass-specific replication' enabled to generate equal initial biomass concentrations in main cultures from precultures with different growth kinetics. This was realized by automatically transferring an appropiate inoculum volume from the different preculture microtiter wells to respective wells of the main culture plate, where subsequently similar growth kinetics could be obtained. Conclusion: The Robo-Lector generates extensive kinetic data in high-throughput cultivations, particularly for biomass and fluorescence protein formation. Based on the non-invasive on-line-monitoring signals, actions of the liquid-handling robot can easily be triggered. This interaction between the robot and the BioLector (Robo-Lector) combines high-content data generation with systematic high-throughput experimentation in an automated fashion, offering new possibilities to study biological production systems. The presented platform uses a standard liquid-handling workstation with widespread automation possibilities. Thus, high-throughput cultivations can now be combined with small-scale downstream processing techniques and analytical assays. Ultimately, this novel versatile platform can accelerate and intensify research and development in the field of systems biology as well as modelling and bioprocess optimization.