by Benjamin D. Knapp, Lillian Zhu, Kerwyn Casey Huang
Single-cell imaging, combined with recent advances in image analysis and microfluidic technologies, have enabled fundamental discoveries of cellular responses to chemical perturbations that are often obscured by traditional liquid-culture experiments. Temperature is an environmental variable well known to impact growth and to elicit specific stress responses at extreme values; it is often used as a genetic tool to interrogate essential genes. However, the dynamic effects of temperature shifts have remained mostly unstudied at the single-cell level, due largely to engineering challenges related to sample stability, heatsink considerations, and temperature measurement and feedback. Additionally, the few commercially available temperature-control platforms are costly. Here, we report an inexpensive (Escherichia coli cells progressively shrink and lose cellular contents. During oscillations between 30°C and 37°C, cells rapidly adapted their response to temperature upshifts. Furthermore, SiCTeC enabled the discovery of rapid morphological changes and enhanced sensitivity to substrate stiffness during upshifts to nonpermissive temperatures in temperature-sensitive mutants of cell-wall synthesis enzymes. Overall, the simplicity and affordability of SiCTeC empowers future studies of the temperature dependence of single-cell physiology.