Single-Cell Infection of Influenza A Virus Using Drop-Based Microfluidics
Drop-based microfluidics has revolutionized single-cell studies and can be applied toward analyzing tens of thousands to millions of single cells and their products contained within picoliter-sized drops. Drop-based microfluidics can shed insight into single-cell virology, enabling higher-resolution analysis of cellular and viral heterogeneity during viral infection. In this work, individual A549, MDCK, and siat7e cells were infected with influenza A virus (IAV) and encapsulated into 100-μm-size drops. Initial studies of uninfected cells encapsulated in drops demonstrated high cell viability and drop stability. Cell viability of uninfected cells in the drops remained above 75%, and the average drop radii changed by less than 3% following cell encapsulation and incubation over 24 h. Infection parameters were analyzed over 24 h from individually infected cells in drops. The number of IAV viral genomes and infectious viruses released from A549 and MDCK cells in drops was not significantly different from bulk infection as measured by reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and plaque assay. The application of drop-based microfluidics in this work expands the capacity to propagate IAV viruses and perform high-throughput analyses of individually infected cells. IMPORTANCE Drop-based microfluidics is a cutting-edge tool in single-cell research. Here, we used drop-based microfluidics to encapsulate thousands of individual cells infected with influenza A virus within picoliter-sized drops. Drop stability, cell loading, and cell viability were quantified from three different cell lines that support influenza A virus propagation. Similar levels of viral progeny as determined by RT-qPCR and plaque assay were observed from encapsulated cells in drops compared to bulk culture. This approach enables the ability to propagate influenza A virus from encapsulated cells, allowing for future high-throughput analysis of single host cell interactions in isolated microenvironments over the course of the viral life cycle.