An Open-Source Plate Reader.
Abstract: Microplate readers are foundational instruments in ex-perimental biology and bioengineering that enable mul-tiplexed spectrophotometric measurements. To enhance their accessibility, we here report the design, construc-tion, validation, and benchmarking of an open-source microplate reader. The system features full-spectrum absorbance and fluorescence emission detection, in situ optogenetic stimulation, and stand-alone touch screen programming of automated assay protocols. The total system costs <$3500, a fraction of the cost of commer-cial plate readers, and can detect the fluorescence of common dyes down to ~10 nanomolar concentration. Functional capabilities were demonstrated in context of synthetic biology, optoge¬netics, and photosensory biol-ogy: by steady-state measurements of ligand-induced reporter gene expression in a model of bacterial quorum sensing, and by flavin photocycling kinetic measure-ments of a LOV (light-oxygen-voltage) domain photo-receptor used for optogenetic transcriptional activation. Fully detailed guides for assembling the device and au-tomating it using the custom Python-based API (Appli-cation Program Interface) are provided. This work con-tributes a key technology to the growing community-wide infrastructure of open-source biology-focused hardware, whose creation is facilitated by rapid proto-typing capabilities and low-cost electronics, optoelec-tronics, and microcomputers.