Precise control over microbial cell growth conditions could enable detection of minute phenotypic changes, which would improve our understanding of how genotypes are shaped by adaptive selection. Although automated cell-culture systems such as bioreactors offer strict control over liquid culture conditions, they often do not scale to high-throughput or require cumbersome redesign to alter growth conditions. We report the design and validation of eVOLVER, a scalable do-it-yourself (DIY) framework, which can be configured to carry out high-throughput growth experiments in molecular evolution, systems biology, and microbiology. High-throughput evolution of yeast populations grown at different densities reveals that eVOLVER can be applied to characterize adaptive niches. Growth selection on a genome-wide yeast knockout library, using temperatures varied over different timescales, finds strains sensitive to temperature changes or frequency of temperature change. Inspired by large-scale integration of electronics and microfluidics, we also demonstrate millifluidic multiplexing modules that enable multiplexed media routing, cleaning, vial-to-vial transfers and automated yeast mating.
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https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4151