Single-Round Remodeling of the Active Site of an Artificial Metalloenzyme using an Ultrahigh-Throughput Double Emulsion Screening Assay

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The potential of high-throughput compartmentalization renders droplet microfluidics an attractive tool for directed evolution of enzymes as it permits maintenance of the phenotype-genotype linkage throughout the entire optimization procedure. In particular, water-in-oil-in-water double emulsions droplets (DEs) produced by microfluidics enable the analysis of reaction compartments at ultra-high-throughput using commercially available fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) devices. Here we report a streamlined method applicable for the ultrahigh-throughput screening of an artificial metalloenzyme (ArM), an artificial deallylase (ADAse), in double emulsions. The DE-protocol was validated by screening a four hundred member, double-mutant streptavidin library for the CpRu-catalyzed uncaging of aminocoumarin. The most active variants, identified by next generation sequencing of the sorted DE droplets with highest fluorescent intensity, are in good agreement with 96-well plate screening hits. These findings, thus, pave the way towards the systematic implementation of commercially available FACS for the directed evolution of metalloenzymes making ultrahigh-throughput screening more broadly accessible. The use of microfluidics for the formation of uniform compartments with precise control over reagents and cell encapsulation further facilitates the establishment of highly reliable quantitative assays.

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