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Single-Cell Analysis of Morphological and Metabolic Heterogeneity in Euglena gracilis by Fluorescence-Imaging Flow Cytometry

Muñoz, Hector E., Li, Ming, Riche, Carson T., Nitta, Nao, Diebold, Eric, Lin, Jonathan, Owsley, Keegan, Bahr, Matthew, Goda, Keisuke, Di Carlo, Dino
Analytical chemistry 2018 v.90 no.19 pp. 11280-11289
Euglena gracilis, biofuels, biomass production, droplets, feedstocks, flow cytometry, lipids, microalgae, models, oils, topographic maps
Microalgal biofuels and biomass have ecofriendly advantages as feedstocks. Improved understanding and utilization of microalgae require large-scale analysis of the morphological and metabolic heterogeneity within populations. Here, with Euglena gracilis as a model microalgal species, we evaluate how fluorescence- and brightfield-derived-image-based descriptors vary during environmental stress at the single-cell level. This is achieved with a new multiparameter fluorescence-imaging cytometric technique that allows the assaying of thousands of cells per experiment. We track morphological changes, including the intensity and distribution of intracellular lipid droplets, and pigment autofluorescence. The combined fluorescence–morphological analysis identifies new metrics not accessible with traditional flow cytometry, including the lipid-to-cell-area ratio (LCAR), which shows promise as an indicator of oil productivity per biomass. Single-cell metrics of lipid productivity were highly correlated (R² > 0.90, p < 0.005) with bulk oil extraction. Such chemomorphological atlases of algal species can help optimize growth conditions and selection approaches for large-scale biomass production.