Sol–Gel-Derived Materials for Production of Pin-Printed Reporter Gene Living-Cell Microarrays
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We report the fabrication of three-dimensional living-cell microarrays via pin-printing of soft sol-gel-derived silica materials containing bacterial cells. Bacterial cells entrapped in the silica-glycerol microarray spots can express reporter genes and produce strong fluorescence signals. The signals responded to the presence and concentration of inducers or repressors as expected, indicating that the entrapped cells remained metabolically active. Microscopic imaging of individual microarray spots at different culture times suggests that the entrapped cells can grow and divide, phenomena further confirmed by experiments in bulk sol-gel materials that demonstrated the increases of entrapped cell density and fluorescence during incubation in culture media. The cell microarrays can also be printed into 96-well glass bottom microtiter plates in a multiplexed manner, and the fluorescence signals generated were able to quantitatively and selectively respond to the concentration of inducers, thus demonstrating the potential for multitarget biosensing and high-throughput/high-content cell-based screening. The signal levels of bacterial cells in silica were significantly higher than those in alginate arrays, presumably due to viability of the entrapped cells in silica sol-gels. Microarray stability assays proved that the entrapped cells retained their physiological activity after storage for four weeks. Given that a large number of fluorescent and luminescent protein-based cell assays have been developed, the reporter gene living-cell microarrays demonstrated in this paper are expected to be applicable to a wide variety of research areas ranging from bioanalysis and chemical biology to drug discovery and probing of cell-material interactions.
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