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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2010 Feb;21(1):85-99. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2010.02.006. Epub 2010 Mar 5.

Flow cytometry for bacteria: enabling metabolic engineering, synthetic biology and the elucidation of complex phenotypes.

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  • 1Elcriton, Inc., Delaware Biotechnology Institute, Rm 288, 15 Innovation Way, Newark, DE 19711, USA.


Flow cytometry (FC) and FC-based cell sorting have been established as critical tools in modern cell and developmental biology. Yet, their applications in bacteria, especially in the multiparametric mode, remain limited. We argue that FC technologies have the potential to greatly accelerate the analysis and development of microbial complex phenotypes through applications of metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, and evolutionary engineering. We demonstrate the importance of FC for elucidating population heterogeneity because of developmental processes or epigenetic regulation. FC can be engaged for both synthetic and analytical applications of complex phenotypes within a single species, multispecies, and microbial-library populations. Examples include methods to identify developmental microbial stages associated with productive metabolic phenotypes, select desirable promoters from a single species or metagenomic libraries, and to screen designer riboswitches for synthetic-biology applications.

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