Cytometry A - (-) - [2023-10-20; online 2023-10-20]
Microalgae, small photosynthetic unicells, are of great interest to ecology, ecotoxicology and biotechnology and there is a growing need to investigate the ability of cells to photosynthesize under variable conditions. Current strategies involve hand-operated pulse-amplitude-modulated (PAM) chlorophyll fluorimeters, which can provide detailed insights into the photophysiology of entire populations- or individual cells of microalgae but are typically limited in their throughput. To increase the throughput of a commercially available MICROSCOPY-PAM system, we present the PAM Automation Control Manager ('PACMan'), an open-source Python software package that automates image acquisition, microscopy stage control and the triggering of external hardware components. PACMan comes with a user-friendly graphical user interface and is released together with a stand-alone tool (PAMalysis) for the automated calculation of per-cell maximum quantum efficiencies (= Fv /Fm ). Using these two software packages, we successfully tracked the photophysiology of >1000 individual cells of green algae (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) and dinoflagellates (genus Symbiodiniaceae) within custom-made microfluidic devices. Compared to the manual operation of MICROSCOPY-PAM systems, this represents a 10-fold increase in throughput. During experiments, PACMan coordinated the movement of the microscope stage and triggered the MICROSCOPY-PAM system to repeatedly capture high-quality image data across multiple positions. Finally, we analyzed single-cell Fv /Fm with the manufacturer-supplied software and PAMalysis, demonstrating a median difference <0.5% between both methods. We foresee that PACMan, and its auxiliary software package will help increase the experimental throughput in a range of microalgae studies currently relying on hand-operated MICROSCOPY-PAM technologies.