JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results






High-Throughput Live Imaging of Microcolonies to Measure Heterogeneity in Growth and Gene Expression

Published: April 18th, 2021



1Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, Department of Biology, New York University

Yeast growth phenotypes are precisely measured through highly parallel time-lapse imaging of immobilized cells growing into microcolonies. Simultaneously, stress tolerance, protein expression, and protein localization can be monitored, generating integrated datasets to study how environmental and genetic differences, as well as gene-expression heterogeneity among isogenic cells, modulate growth.

Precise measurements of between- and within-strain heterogeneity in microbial growth rates are essential for understanding genetic and environmental inputs into stress tolerance, pathogenicity, and other key components of fitness. This manuscript describes a microscope-based assay that tracks approximately 105 Saccharomyces cerevisiae microcolonies per experiment. After automated time-lapse imaging of yeast immobilized in a multiwell plate, microcolony growth rates are easily analyzed with custom image-analysis software. For each microcolony, expression and localization of fluorescent proteins and survival of acute stress can also be monitored. This assay allows precise estimation of strains' average growth rates, as well as comprehensive measurement of heterogeneity in growth, gene expression, and stress tolerance within clonal populations.

Growth phenotypes contribute critically to yeast fitness. Natural selection can efficiently distinguish between lineages with growth rates differing by the inverse of the effective population size, which can exceed 108 individuals1. Furthermore, variability of growth rates among individuals within a population is an evolutionarily relevant parameter, as it can serve as the basis for survival strategies such as bet hedging2,3,4,5,6. Therefore, assays that allow for highly a....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

1. Preparation of Randomized Plates (Prior to Experiment Day)

  1. Plan the strains and conditions to be tested with the growth assay. At this point, randomly assign strains and conditions to any well.
    NOTE: When considering plate setup, it is advisable to include more than one replicate per strain and growth condition on a single plate to account for well-related noise in measurements. See Discussion for more details.
  2. Computationally randomize the location of each strain and environmental conditi.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

The novelty of this protocol is that growth rate can be calculated for individual cells within a population by tracking their growth into microcolonies through time-lapse imaging (Figure 2A). Because microcolonies grow for many hours in a planar manner due to the presence of concanavalin A, their areas can be tracked throughout the experiment, and a linear fit to the change in the natural log of the area over time can be used to calculate growth rate for each individual colony observed

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

The protocol described here is a versatile assay that allows cell growth and gene expression to be monitored simultaneously at the level of individual microcolonies. Combining these two modalities yields unique biological insights. For example, previous work has used this assay to show a negative correlation between expression of the TSL1 gene and microcolony growth rate in isogenic wildtype cells by measuring both simultaneously7,10. It is also possible.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

We thank Naomi Ziv, Sasha Levy and Shuang Li for their contributions to developing this protocol, David Gresham for shared equipment, and Marissa Knoll for help with video production. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grant R35GM118170.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
General Materials
500 mL Bottletop Filter .22 µm PES Sterilizing, Low Protein Binding, w/45mm Neck Fisher CLS431154 used to filter the media
BD Falcon*Tissue Culture Plates, microtest u-bottom Fisher 08-772-54 96-well culture tubes used to freeze cells, pre-grow cells, and dilutions
BD Syringes without Needle, 50 mL Fisher 13-689-8 Used to filter the Concanavalin A
Costar Sterile Disposable Reagent Reservoirs Fisher 07-200-127 reagent reservoirs used to pipette solutions with multichannel pipette
Costar Thermowell Aluminum Sealing Tape Fisher 07-200-684 96-well plate seal for pre-growth and freezing
lint and static free Kimwipes Fisher 06-666A lint and static free wipes to keep microscope plate bottom free of debris and scratches
Nalgene Syringe Filters ThermoFisher Scientific 199-2020 0.2 μm pore size, 25 mm diameter; used to filter concanavalin A solution
Media Components
Minimal chemically defined media (MD; 2% glucose) alternative microscopy media used for yeast pre-growth and growth during microscopy
Synthetic Complete Media (SC; 2% glucose) microscopy media used for yeast pre-growth and growth during microscopy
Yeast extract-peptone-dextrose (YEPD; 2% glucose) medium cell growth prior to freezing down randomized plates
Microscopy Materials
Breathe-Easy sealing membrane Millipore Sigma Z380059-1PAK breathable membranes used to seal plate during microscopy experiment. At this stage breathable membranes are reccomended because they prevent condensation in the wells and allow for better microscopy images
Brooks 96-well flat clear glass bottom microscope plate Dot Scientific MGB096-1-2-LG-L microscope plate
Concanavalin A from canavalia ensiformis (Jack Bean), lyophilized powder Millipore Sigma 45-C2010-1G Make 5x concanavalin A solution and freeze 5ml of 5x concanavalin A in 50 mL conical tubes at -80 °C
Strains Used
MAH.5, MAH.96, MAH.52, MAH.66, MAH.11, MAH.58, MAH.135, MAH.15, MAH.44, MAH.132 Haploid mutation accumulation strains in a laboratory background, described in Hall and Joseph 2010
EP026.2A-2C Progeny of the ancestral Hall and Joseph 2010 mutation accumulation strain, transformed with YFR054cΔ::Scw11P::GFP
Misonix Sonicator S-4000 with 96-pin attachment Sonicator
Nikon Eclipse Ti-E with Perfect Focus System Inverted microscope with automated stage and autofocus system

  1. Geiler-Samerotte, K. A., Hashimoto, T., Dion, M. F., Budnik, B. A., Airoldi, E. M., Drummond, D. A. Quantifying condition-dependent intracellular protein levels enables high-precision fitness estimates. PloS one. 8 (9), 75320 (2013).
  2. Kussell, E., Leibler, S. Phenotypic diversity, population growth, and information in fluctuating environments. Science. 309 (5743), 2075-2078 (2005).
  3. Thattai, M., van Oudenaarden, A. Stochastic gene expression in fluctuating environments. Genetics. 167 (1), 523-530 (2004).
  4. King, O. D., Masel, J. The evolution of bet-hedging adaptations to rare scenarios. Theoretical population biology. 72 (4), 560-575 (2007).
  5. Acar, M., Mettetal, J. T., van Oudenaarden, A. Stochastic switching as a survival strategy in fluctuating environments. Nature genetics. 40 (4), 471-475 (2008).
  6. Avery, S. V. Microbial cell individuality and the underlying sources of heterogeneity. Nature reviews. Microbiology. 4 (8), 577-587 (2006).
  7. Levy, S. F., Ziv, N., Siegal, M. L. Bet hedging in yeast by heterogeneous, age-correlated expression of a stress protectant. PLoS biology. 10 (5), 1001325 (2012).
  8. van Dijk, D., et al. Slow-growing cells within isogenic populations have increased RNA polymerase error rates and DNA damage. Nature communications. 6, 7972 (2015).
  9. Ziv, N., Shuster, B. M., Siegal, M. L., Gresham, D. Resolving the Complex Genetic Basis of Phenotypic Variation and Variability of Cellular Growth. Genetics. 206 (3), 1645-1657 (2017).
  10. Li, S., Giardina, D. M., Siegal, M. L. Control of nongenetic heterogeneity in growth rate and stress tolerance of Saccharomyces cerevisiae by cyclic AMP-regulated transcription factors. PLoS genetics. 14 (11), 1007744 (2018).
  11. Plavskin, Y., Li, S., Ziv, N., Levy, S. F., Siegal, M. L. Robust colony recognition for high-throughput growth analysis from suboptimal low-magnification brightfield micrographs. bioRxiv. , (2018).
  12. Ziv, N., Siegal, M. L., Gresham, D. Genetic and nongenetic determinants of cell growth variation assessed by high-throughput microscopy. Molecular biology and evolution. 30 (12), 2568-2578 (2013).
  13. Hall, D. W., Joseph, S. B. A high frequency of beneficial mutations across multiple fitness components in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics. 185 (4), 1397-1409 (2010).
  14. Saleemuddin, M., Husain, Q. Concanavalin A: a useful ligand for glycoenzyme immobilization--a review. Enzyme and microbial technology. 13 (4), 290-295 (1991).
  15. Geiler-Samerotte, K. A., Bauer, C. R., Li, S., Ziv, N., Gresham, D., Siegal, M. L. The details in the distributions: why and how to study phenotypic variability. Current opinion in biotechnology. 24 (4), 752-759 (2013).
  16. Nakagawa, S., Schielzeth, H. Repeatability for Gaussian and non-Gaussian data: a practical guide for biologists. Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 85 (4), 935-956 (2010).
  17. Bolker, J. A. Exemplary and surrogate models: two modes of representation in biology. Perspectives in biology and medicine. 52 (4), 485-499 (2009).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved