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Methods Mol Biol. 2012;908:153-68. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-956-3_15.

Anaerobic high-throughput cultivation method for isolation of thermophiles using biomass-derived substrates.

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Oak Ridge National Laboratory, BioEnergy Science Center, Oak Ridge, TN, USA.


Flow cytometry (FCM) techniques have been developed for sorting mesophilic organisms, but the difficulty increases if the target microbes are thermophilic anaerobes. We demonstrate a reliable, high-throughput method of screening thermophilic anaerobic organisms using FCM and 96-well plates for growth on biomass-relevant substrates. The method was tested using the cellulolytic thermophiles Clostridium thermocellum (T(opt) = 55 °C), Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis (T(opt) = 78 °C) and the fermentative hyperthermophiles, Pyrococcus furiosus (T(opt) = 100 °C) and Thermotoga maritima (T(opt) = 80 °C). Multi-well plates were incubated at various temperatures for approximately 72-120 h and then tested for growth. Positive growth resulting from single cells sorted into individual wells containing an anaerobic medium was verified by OD(600). Depending on the growth substrate, up to 80 % of the wells contained viable cultures, which could be transferred to fresh media. This method was used to isolate thermophilic microbes from Rabbit Creek, Yellowstone National Park (YNP), Wyoming. Substrates for enrichment cultures including crystalline cellulose (Avicel), xylan (from Birchwood), pretreated switchgrass and Populus were used to cultivate organisms that may be of interest to lignocellulosic biofuel production.

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