High-throughput Cell Plating

High-throughput Cell Plating Using the ROTOR HDA

Jay Yang¹, Michaela Spitzer¹, Adison Wong², Wen Shan Yew³, and Matthew Chang³

¹Singer Instruments, Roadwater, TA23 0RE, UK
²Singapore Institute of Technology, 10 Dover Drive, Singapore 138682, Singapore
³Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation (SynCTI), Life Sciences Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117456, Singapore



Advances in robotic automation help standardise repetitive procedures in labs. This in return increases throughput and reliability. The plating and isolation of single colonies is indispensable in the course of any micro- and molecular biology study. Despite the clear benefits of automation, plating cells on robotic platforms is not widely adopted. This is largely due to the inconsistency and the low throughput of current robotic solution – plating one plate at any one time. This is not practical if one is working with hundreds of thousands of samples at a time.

At Singer Instruments, we have developed a solution for this problem: the high-throughput plating protocol using the ROTOR HDA. This protocol provides researchers the capacity to plate 96 samples in under two minutes on a single plate, a truly high-throughput approach saving valuable time and resources!

ROTOR Plates cells using a custom Pinning matrix

To take advantage of the ROTOR’s liquid to agar transfer functionality, we have developed a plating protocol that uses 96-density long pin RePads to transfer cells from a 96-well microplate to an agar plate. For this protocol the ROTOR pins a 7×7 matrix for each of the 96 samples on a rectangular agar plate. Once the ROTOR has picked up samples from the 96-well plate, it repeatedly spots the pintip of the RePad onto the agar plate without revisiting the source plate. The repeated spotting of the pintips dilutes the cells on the pintips as the ROTOR progresses through the matrix, resulting in pinning of single colony forming units (Figure 1).

High-throughput Cell Plating Figure 1


The ROTOR plating protocol is capable of plating yeast and bacterial cells

To assess the effectiveness of this protocol, we grew an overnight culture of S. cerevisiae, performed a 2-fold dilution series of the overnight culture, and pinned the cells onto PlusPlates (Figure 2a). After 48 hours incubation at 30°C we observed single colonies across a range of dilutions.

We repeated the same experiment with P. pastoris (Figure 2b) and E. coli (Figure 2c). The results were consistent and we observed growth of single colonies at various dilutions. This demonstrates that the 7×7 matrix plating protocol is applicable to a range of microorganisms, including yeast and bacterial cells.

High-throughput Cell Plating Figure 2a

High-throughput Cell Plating Figure 2b

High-throughput Cell Plating Figure 2c

The ROTOR prepares a plate of 96 samples of bacteria cells

We concluded that the ideal concentration for plating single colonies of E. coli cells from an overnight culture was a 1:16 or 1:32 dilution. We repeated the experiment with an E. coli overnight culture that was diluted either 1:16 or 1:32. The result shows that every sample was clearly defined in its matrix without cross-contamination (Figure 3).

High-throughput Cell Plating Figure 3

ROTOR Synthetic Genetic Array Robot product link

The ROTOR is the fastest and most powerful colony manipulation robot in the world. It is essential for high-throughput screening and single colony picking.

The protocol is able to plate cells from E. coli transformation

E. coli transformation is the most common protocol where large numbers of transformants need to be plated to pick single colonies. To determine whether the ROTOR’s 7×7 pinning protocol is able to plate E. coli cells after transformation, we transformed E. coli with either a) a plasmid encoding GFP, b) an empty vector, or c) dH2O without any plasmid. Our data indicates that we were able to obtain single colony forming units on LB + Kan plates when cells were transformed with plasmids, while the cells transformed without plasmids were not viable and did not grow on the selective media (Figure 4a).

To test the specificity of the transformation, we imaged the plate using the PhenoBooth, which is able to detect GFP signals. As expected, the cells that were transformed with GFP plasmid showed strong GFP signals, while the cells that were transformed with empty vector did not (Figure 4b).

High-throughput Cell Plating Figure 4a
High-throughput Cell Plating Figure 4b



The ROTOR 7×7 matrix protocol automates high throughput plating of microbial organisms for single colonies. This protocol allows researchers to plate 96 samples onto one target plate in less than two minutes, using a single 96-long pin RePad. Altogether, the ROTOR provides a truly high-throughput and low cost solution that merely takes 1.25 seconds and costs 4.2 cents per sample. Our cutting edge protocol will save time, resources, and money.

This new matrix plugin for the ROTOR provides a protocol that adds significant value and flexibility to an already robust system. The default 7×7 matrix is fully customisable as is the location where the matrix is spotted. If you are working with a different model organism, and would like to be the first to test this pioneering technology, please contact us.

Figure Legends

Figure 1: Schematic diagram illustrating the 7×7 matrix protocol
The ROTOR pins samples from a 96-well source plate in the 7×7 matrix onto an agar plate. After incubation single colonies can be observed for all 96 samples.

Figure 2: Testing the 7×7 matrix plating protocol with different model organisms.
Overnight cultures for different model organisms were 2-fold dilution series and plated onto an agar.

A) Plated S. cerevisiae was incubated at 30°C for 48 hours.

B) Plated P. pastoris was incubated at 30°C for 36 hours.

C) Plated E. coli was incubated at 37°C for 18 hours.

Figure 3: Samples are plated without cross-contamination.
An E. coli overnight culture was diluted to either a 1:16 or 1:32 and plated onto agar. The plate was incubated at 37°C for 18 hours.

Figure 4: 7×7 matrix protocol is able to plate E. coli transformants.
E. coli cells were transformed with either GFP-vector, empty vector, or water. After transformation, the 7×7 matrix protocol was used to plate these cells for single colonies.

A) Cells transformed with either GFP-vector or empty vector formed colonies on the plate, while cells transformed with water failed to form colonies.

B) The plate was imaged with the PhenoBooth using UV light to detect GFP signal. Cells transformed with GFP-vector formed colonies with a GFP signal, while cells transformed with empty vector failed to fluoresce.