The demand for novel, robust microbial biocatalysts for use in industrial and pharmaceutical applications continues to increase rapidly. As a result, there is a need to develop advanced tools and technologies to exploit the vast metabolic potential of unculturable microorganisms found in various environments. Single-cell and functional metagenomics studies can explore the enzymatic potential of entire microbial communities in a given environment without the need to culture the microorganisms. This approach has contributed substantially to the discovery of unique microbial genes for industrial and medical applications. Functional metagenomics involves the extraction of microbial DNA directly from environmental samples, constructing expression libraries comprising the entire microbial genome, and screening of the libraries for the presence of desired phenotypes. In this study, lipolytic enzymes from the Red Sea were targeted. A high-throughput single-cell microfluidic platform combined with a laser-based fluorescent screening bioassay was employed to discover new genes encoding lipolytic enzymes. Analysis of the metagenomic library led to the identification of three microbial genes encoding lipases based on their functional similarity and sequence homology to known lipases. The results demonstrated that microfluidics is a robust technology that can be used for screening in functional metagenomics. The results also indicate that the Red Sea is a promising, under-investigated source of new genes and gene products.
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