Sci Adv 6 (36) eabb2754 [2020-09-00; online 2020-09-02]
Photosynthetic microorganisms are key players in aquatic ecosystems with strong potential for bioenergy production, yet their systematic selection at the single-cell level for improved productivity or stress resilience ("phenotyping") has remained largely inaccessible. To facilitate the phenotyping of microalgae and cyanobacteria, we developed "PhenoChip," a platform for the multiparametric photophysiological characterization and selection of unicellular phenotypes under user-controlled physicochemical conditions. We used PhenoChip to expose single cells of the coral symbiont Symbiodinium to thermal and chemical treatments and monitor single-cell photophysiology via chlorophyll fluorometry. This revealed strain-specific thermal sensitivity thresholds and distinct pH optima for photosynthetic performance, and permitted the identification of single cells with elevated resilience toward rising temperature. Optical expulsion technology was used to collect single cells from PhenoChip, and their propagation revealed indications of transgenerational preservation of photosynthetic phenotypes. PhenoChip represents a versatile platform for the phenotyping of photosynthetic unicells relevant to biotechnology, ecotoxicology, and assisted evolution.