We have developed a microfluidic device that allows the isolation and genome amplification of individual microbial cells, thereby enabling organism-level genomic analysis of complex microbial ecosystems without the need for culture. This device was used to perform a directed survey of the human subgingival crevice and to isolate bacteria having rod-like morphology. Several isolated microbes had a 16S rRNA sequence that placed them in candidate phylum TM7, which has no cultivated or sequenced members. Genome amplification from individual TM7 cells allowed us to sequence and assemble >1,000 genes, providing insight into the physiology of members of this phylum. This approach enables single-cell genetic analysis of any uncultivated minority member of a microbial community.
Yann Marcy, Cleber C. Ouverney, Elisabeth M. Bik, Tina Lösekann, Natalia Ivanova, Hector Garcia Martin, Ernest Szeto, Darren Platt, Philip Hugenholtz, David A. Relman, and Stephen R. Quake. "Dissecting biological “dark matter” with single-cell genetic analysis of rare and uncultivated TM7 microbes from the human mouth" Faculty Publications (2007): 11889-11894. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0704662104