A general strategy for expanding polymerase function by droplet microfluidics

Andrew C. Larsen, Matthew R. Dunn, Andrew Hatch, Sujay P. Sau, Cody Youngbull, John C. Chaput

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Scopus citations


Polymerases that synthesize artificial genetic polymers hold great promise for advancing future applications in synthetic biology. However, engineering natural polymerases to replicate unnatural genetic polymers is a challenging problem. Here we present droplet-based optical polymerase sorting (DrOPS) as a general strategy for expanding polymerase function that employs an optical sensor to monitor polymerase activity inside the microenvironment of a uniform synthetic compartment generated by microfluidics. We validated this approach by performing a complete cycle of encapsulation, sorting and recovery on a doped library and observed an enrichment of ∼1,200-fold for a model engineered polymerase. We then applied our method to evolve a manganese-independent α-L-threofuranosyl nucleic acid (TNA) polymerase that functions with >99% template-copying fidelity. Based on our findings, we suggest that DrOPS is a versatile tool that could be used to evolve any polymerase function, where optical detection can be achieved by Watson-Crick base pairing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11235
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Apr 5 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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    Larsen, A. C., Dunn, M. R., Hatch, A., Sau, S. P., Youngbull, C., & Chaput, J. C. (2016). A general strategy for expanding polymerase function by droplet microfluidics. Nature communications, 7, [11235]. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms11235