Showing 1 - 25 of 39 results
Light-based juxtacrine signaling between synthetic cells.
Cell signaling through direct physical cell-cell contacts plays vital roles in biology during development, angiogenesis, and immune response. Intercellular communication mechanisms between synthetic cells constructed from the bottom up are majorly reliant on diffusible chemical signals, thus limiting the range of responses in receiver cells. Engineering contact-dependent signaling between synthetic cells promises to unlock more complicated signaling schemes with different types of responses. Here, we design and demonstrate a light-activated contact-dependent communication tool for synthetic cells. We utilize a split bioluminescent protein to limit signal generation exclusively to contact interfaces of synthetic cells, driving the recruitment of a photoswitchable protein in receiver cells, akin to juxtacrine signaling in living cells. Our modular design not only demonstrates contact-dependent communication between synthetic cells but also provides a platform for engineering orthogonal contact-dependent signaling mechanisms.
Reversible photoregulation of cell-cell adhesions with opto-E-cadherin.
E-cadherin-based cell-cell adhesions are dynamically and locally regulated in many essential processes, including embryogenesis, wound healing and tissue organization, with dysregulation manifesting as tumorigenesis and metastasis. However, the lack of tools that would provide control of the high spatiotemporal precision observed with E-cadherin adhesions hampers investigation of the underlying mechanisms. Here, we present an optogenetic tool, opto-E-cadherin, that allows reversible control of E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesions with blue light. With opto-E-cadherin, functionally essential calcium binding is photoregulated such that cells expressing opto-E-cadherin at their surface adhere to each other in the dark but not upon illumination. Consequently, opto-E-cadherin provides remote control over multicellular aggregation, E-cadherin-associated intracellular signalling and F-actin organization in 2D and 3D cell cultures. Opto-E-cadherin also allows switching of multicellular behaviour between single and collective cell migration, as well as of cell invasiveness in vitro and in vivo. Overall, opto-E-cadherin is a powerful optogenetic tool capable of controlling cell-cell adhesions at the molecular, cellular and behavioural level that opens up perspectives for the study of dynamics and spatiotemporal control of E-cadherin in biological processes.
Opto-APC: Engineering of cells that display phytochrome B on their surface for optogenetic studies of cell-cell interactions.
The kinetics of a ligand-receptor interaction determine the responses of the receptor-expressing cell. One approach to experimentally and reversibly change this kinetics on demand is optogenetics. We have previously developed a system in which the interaction of a modified receptor with an engineered ligand can be controlled by light. In this system the ligand is a soluble Phytochrome B (PhyB) tetramer and the receptor is fused to a mutated PhyB-interacting factor (PIFS). However, often the natural ligand is not soluble, but expressed as a membrane protein on another cell. This allows ligand-receptor interactions in two dimensions. Here, we developed a strategy to generate cells that display PhyB as a membrane-bound protein by expressing the SpyCatcher fused to a transmembrane domain in HEK-293T cells and covalently coupling purified PhyB-SpyTag to these cells. As proof-of-principle, we use Jurkat T cells that express a GFP-PIFS-T cell receptor and show that these cells can be stimulated by the PhyB-coupled HEK-293T cells in a light dependent manner. Thus, we call the PhyB-coupled cells opto-antigen presenting cells (opto-APCs). Our work expands the toolbox of optogenetic technologies, allowing two-dimensional ligand-receptor interactions to be controlled by light.
Blue Light Signaling Regulates Escherichia coli W1688 Biofilm Formation and l-Threonine Production.
Escherichia coli biofilm may form naturally on biotic and abiotic surfaces; this represents a promising approach for efficient biochemical production in industrial fermentation. Recently, industrial exploitation of the advantages of optogenetics, such as simple operation, high spatiotemporal control, and programmability, for regulation of biofilm formation has garnered considerable attention. In this study, we used the blue light signaling-induced optogenetic system Magnet in an E. coli biofilm-based immobilized fermentation system to produce l-threonine in sufficient quantity. Blue light signaling significantly affected the phenotype of E. coli W1688. A series of biofilm-related experiments confirmed the inhibitory effect of blue light signaling on E. coli W1688 biofilm. Subsequently, a strain lacking a blue light-sensing protein (YcgF) was constructed via genetic engineering, which substantially reduced the inhibitory effect of blue light signaling on biofilm. A high-efficiency biofilm-forming system, Magnet, was constructed, which enhanced bacterial aggregation and biofilm formation. Furthermore, l-threonine production was increased from 10.12 to 16.57 g/L during immobilized fermentation, and the fermentation period was shortened by 6 h. IMPORTANCE We confirmed the mechanism underlying the inhibitory effects of blue light signaling on E. coli biofilm formation and constructed a strain lacking a blue light-sensing protein; this mitigated the aforementioned effects of blue light signaling and ensured normal fermentation performance. Furthermore, this study elucidated that the blue light signaling-induced optogenetic system Magnet effectively regulates E. coli biofilm formation and contributes to l-threonine production. This study not only enriches the mechanism of blue light signaling to regulate E. coli biofilm formation but also provides a theoretical basis and feasibility reference for the application of optogenetics technology in biofilm-based immobilized fermentation systems.
Force propagation between epithelial cells depends on active coupling and mechano-structural polarization.
Cell-generated forces play a major role in coordinating the large-scale behavior of cell assemblies, in particular during development, wound healing and cancer. Mechanical signals propagate faster than biochemical signals, but can have similar effects, especially in epithelial tissues with strong cell-cell adhesion. However, a quantitative description of the transmission chain from force generation in a sender cell, force propagation across cell-cell boundaries, and the concomitant response of receiver cells is missing. For a quantitative analysis of this important situation, here we propose a minimal model system of two epithelial cells on an H-pattern (“cell doublet”). After optogenetically activating RhoA, a major regulator of cell contractility, in the sender cell, we measure the mechanical response of the receiver cell by traction force and monolayer stress microscopies. In general, we find that the receiver cells shows an active response so that the cell doublet forms a coherent unit. However, force propagation and response of the receiver cell also strongly depends on the mechano-structural polarization in the cell assembly, which is controlled by cell-matrix adhesion to the adhesive micropattern. We find that the response of the receiver cell is stronger when the mechano-structural polarization axis is oriented perpendicular to the direction of force propagation, reminiscent of the Poisson effect in passive materials. We finally show that the same effects are at work in small tissues. Our work demonstrates that cellular organization and active mechanical response of a tissue is key to maintain signal strength and leads to the emergence of elasticity, which means that signals are not dissipated like in a viscous system, but can propagate over large distances.
Light-driven biological actuators to probe the rheology of 3D microtissues.
The mechanical properties of biological tissues are key to the regulation of their physical integrity and function. Although the application of external loading or biochemical treatments allows to estimate these properties globally, it remains problematic to assess how such external stimuli compare with internal, cell-generated contractions. Here we engineered 3D microtissues composed of optogenetically-modified fibroblasts encapsulated within collagen. Using light to control the activity of RhoA, a major regulator of cellular contractility, we induced local mechanical perturbation within 3D fibrous microtissues, while tracking in real time microtissue stress and strain. We thus investigated the dynamic regulation of light-induced, local contractions and their spatio-temporal propagation in microtissues. By comparing the evolution of stresses and strains upon stimulation, we demonstrated the potential of our technique for quantifying tissue elasticity and viscosity, before examining the possibility of using light to map local anisotropies in mechanically heterogeneous microtissues. Altogether, our results open an avenue to non-destructively chart the rheology of 3D tissues in real time, using their own constituting cells as internal actuators.
Single-Component Optogenetic Tools for Inducible RhoA GTPase Signaling.
Optogenetic tools are created to control RhoA GTPase, a central regulator of actin organization and actomyosin contractility. RhoA GTPase, or its upstream activator ARHGEF11, is fused to BcLOV4, a photoreceptor that can be dynamically recruited to the plasma membrane by a light-regulated protein-lipid electrostatic interaction with the inner leaflet. Direct membrane recruitment of these proteins induces potent contractile signaling sufficient to separate adherens junctions with as little as one pulse of blue light. Induced cytoskeletal morphology changes are dependent on the alignment of the spatially patterned stimulation with the underlying cell polarization. RhoA-mediated cytoskeletal activation drives yes-associated protein (YAP) nuclear localization within minutes and consequent mechanotransduction verified by YAP-transcriptional enhanced associate domain transcriptional activity. These single-transgene tools do not require protein binding partners for dynamic membrane localization and permit spatiotemporally precise control over RhoA signaling to advance the study of its diverse regulatory roles in cell migration, morphogenesis, and cell cycle maintenance.
Bioluminescent Synthetic Cells Communicate with Natural Cells and Self-Activate Light-Responsive Proteins.
Development of regulated cellular processes and signaling methods in synthetic cells is essential for their integration with living materials. Light is an attractive tool to achieve this, but the limited penetration depth into tissue of visible light restricts its usability for in-vivo applications. Here, we describe the synthesis and application of blue-light-generating synthetic cells using bioluminescence, dismissing the need for an external light source. First, the lipid membrane and internal composition of light-producing synthetic cells were optimized to enable high-intensity emission. Next, we show these cells’ capacity for triggering bioprocesses in natural cells by initiating asexual sporulation of dark-grown mycelial cells of the fungus Trichoderma atroviride in a quorum-sensing like mechanism. Finally, we demonstrate regulated transcription and membrane recruitment in synthetic cells using bioluminescent self-activating fusion proteins. These functionalities pave the way for deploying synthetic cells as embeddable microscale light sources that are capable of activating engineered processes inside tissues.
Asymmetric Contraction of Adherens Junctions arises through RhoA and E-cadherin feedback.
Tissue morphogenesis often arises from the culmination of discrete changes in cell-cell junction behaviors, namely ratcheted junction contractions that lead to collective cellular rearrangements. Mechanochemical signaling in the form of RhoA underlies these ratcheted contractions, which occur asymmetrically as one highly motile vertex contracts toward a relatively less motile tricellular vertex. The underlying mechanisms driving asymmetric vertex movement remains unknown. Here, we use optogenetically controlled RhoA in model epithelia together with biophysical modeling to uncover the mechanism lending to asymmetric vertex motion. We find that both local and global RhoA activation leads to increases in junctional tension, thereby facilitating vertex motion. RhoA activation occurs in discrete regions along the junction and is skewed towards the less-motile vertex. At these less-motile vertices, E-cadherin acts as an opposing factor to limit vertex motion through increased frictional drag. Surprisingly, we uncover a feedback loop between RhoA and E-cadherin, as regional optogenetic activation of specified junctional zones pools E-cadherin to the location of RhoA activation. Incorporating this circuit into a mathematical model, we find that a positive feedback between RhoA-mediated tension and E-cadherin-induced frictional drag on tricellular vertices recapitulates experimental data. As such, the location of RhoA determines which vertex is under high tension, pooling E-cadherin and increasing the frictional load at the tricellular vertex to limit its motion. This feedback drives a tension-dependent intercellular “clutch” at tricellular vertices which stabilizes vertex motion upon tensional load.
Optogenetics in Sinorhizobium meliloti Enables Spatial Control of Exopolysaccharide Production and Biofilm Structure.
Microorganisms play a vital role in shaping the soil environment and enhancing plant growth by interacting with plant root systems. Because of the vast diversity of cell types involved, combined with dynamic and spatial heterogeneity, identifying the causal contribution of a defined factor, such as a microbial exopolysaccharide (EPS), remains elusive. Synthetic approaches that enable orthogonal control of microbial pathways are a promising means to dissect such complexity. Here we report the implementation of a synthetic, light-activated, transcriptional control platform using the blue-light responsive DNA binding protein EL222 in the nitrogen fixing soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti. By fine-tuning the system, we successfully achieved optical control of an EPS production pathway without significant basal expression under noninducing (dark) conditions. Optical control of EPS recapitulated important behaviors such as a mucoid plate phenotype and formation of structured biofilms, enabling spatial control of biofilm structures in S. meliloti. The successful implementation of optically controlled gene expression in S. meliloti enables systematic investigation of how genotype and microenvironmental factors together shape phenotype in situ.
Spatiotemporal Control Over Multicellular Migration Using Green Light Reversible Cell–Cell Interactions.
The regulation of cell–cell adhesions in space and time plays a crucial role in cell biology, especially in the coordination of multicellular behavior. Therefore, tools that allow for the modulation of cell–cell interactions with high precision are of great interest to a better understanding of their roles and building tissue‐like structures. Herein, the green light‐responsive protein CarH is expressed at the plasma membrane of cells as an artificial cell adhesion receptor, so that upon addition of its cofactor vitamin B12 specific cell–cell interactions form and lead to cell clustering in a concentration‐dependent manner. Upon green light illumination, the CarH based cell–cell interactions disassemble and allow for their reversion with high spatiotemporal control. Moreover, these artificial cell–cell interactions impact cell migration, as observed in a wound‐healing assay. When the cells interact with each other in the presence of vitamin B12 in the dark, the cells form on a solid front and migrate collectively; however, under green light illumination, individual cells migrate randomly out of the monolayer. Overall, the possibility of precisely controlling cell–cell interactions and regulating multicellular behavior is a potential pathway to gaining more insight into cell–cell interactions in biological processes.
Orthogonal Blue and Red Light Controlled Cell-Cell Adhesions Enable Sorting-out in Multicellular Structures.
The self-assembly of different cell types into multicellular structures and their organization into spatiotemporally controlled patterns are both challenging and extremely powerful to understand how cells function within tissues and for bottom-up tissue engineering. Here, we not only independently control the self-assembly of two cell types into multicellular architectures with blue and red light, but also achieve their self-sorting into distinct assemblies. This required developing two cell types that form selective and homophilic cell-cell interactions either under blue or red light using photoswitchable proteins as artificial adhesion molecules. The interactions were individually triggerable with different colors of light, reversible in the dark, and provide noninvasive and temporal control over the cell-cell adhesions. In mixtures of the two cells, each cell type self-assembled independently upon orthogonal photoactivation, and cells sorted out into separate assemblies based on specific self-recognition. These self-sorted multicellular architectures provide us with a powerful tool for producing tissue-like structures from multiple cell types and investigate principles that govern them.
Blue-Light-Switchable Bacterial Cell-Cell Adhesions Enable the Control of Multicellular Bacterial Communities.
Although the fundamental importance and biotechnological potential of multibacterial communities, also called biofilms, are well-known, our ability to control them is limited. We present a new way of dynamically controlling bacteria-bacteria adhesions by using blue light and how these photoswitchable adhesions can be used to regulate multicellularity and associated bacterial behavior. To achieve this, the photoswitchable proteins nMagHigh and pMagHigh were expressed on bacterial surfaces as adhesins to allow multicellular clusters to assemble under blue light and reversibly disassemble in the dark. Regulation of the bacterial cell-cell adhesions with visible light provides unique advantages including high spatiotemporal control, tunability, and noninvasive remote regulation. Moreover, these photoswitchable adhesions make it possible to regulate collective bacterial functions including aggregation, quorum sensing, biofilm formation, and metabolic cross-feeding between auxotrophic bacteria with light. Overall, the photoregulation of bacteria-bacteria adhesions provides a new way of studying bacterial cell biology and will enable the design of biofilms for biotechnological applications.
Turning Cell Adhesions ON or OFF with High Spatiotemporal Precision Using the Green Light Responsive Protein CarH.
Spatiotemporal control of integrin-mediated cell adhesions to extracellular matrix regulates cell behavior with has numerous implications for biotechnological applications. In this work, two approaches for regulating cell adhesions in space and time with high precision are reported, both of which utilize green light. In the first design, CarH, which is a tetramer in the dark, is used to mask cRGD adhesion-peptides on a surface. Upon green light illumination, the CarH tetramer dissociates into its monomers, revealing the adhesion peptide so that cells can adhere. In the second design, the RGD motif is incorporated into the CarH protein tetramer such that cells can adhere to surfaces functionalized with this protein. The cell adhesions can be disrupted with green light, due to the disassembly of the CarH-RGD protein. Both designs allow for photoregulation with noninvasive visible light and open new possibilities to investigate the dynamical regulation of cell adhesions in cell biology.
Optogenetic manipulation of calcium signals in single T cells in vivo.
By offering the possibility to manipulate cellular functions with spatiotemporal control, optogenetics represents an attractive tool for dissecting immune responses. However, applying these approaches to single cells in vivo remains particularly challenging for immune cells that are typically located in scattering tissues. Here, we introduce an improved calcium actuator with sensitivity allowing for two-photon photoactivation. Furthermore, we identify an actuator/reporter combination that permits the simultaneous manipulation and visualization of calcium signals in individual T cells in vivo. With this strategy, we document the consequences of defined patterns of calcium signals on T cell migration, adhesion, and chemokine release. Manipulation of individual immune cells in vivo should open new avenues for establishing the functional contribution of single immune cells engaged in complex reactions.
The importance of cell-cell interaction dynamics in bottom-up tissue engineering: Concepts of colloidal self-assembly in the fabrication of multicellular architectures.
Building tissue from cells as the basic building block based on principles of self-assembly is a challenging and promising approach. Understanding how far principles of self-assembly and self-sorting known for colloidal particles apply to cells remains unanswered. In this study, we demonstrate that not just controlling the cell-cell interactions but also their dynamics is a crucial factor that determines the formed multicellular structure, using photoswitchable interactions between cells that are activated with blue light and reverse in the dark. Tuning dynamics of the cell-cell interactions by pulsed light activation, results in multicellular architectures with different sizes and shapes. When the interactions between cells are dynamic compact and round multicellular clusters under thermodynamic control form, while otherwise branched and lose aggregates under kinetic control assemble. These structures parallel what is known for colloidal assemblies under reaction and diffusion limited cluster aggregation, respectively. Similarly, dynamic interactions between cells are essential for cells to self-sort into distinct groups. Using four different cell types, which expressed two orthogonal cell-cell interaction pairs, the cells sorted into two separate assemblies. Bringing concepts of colloidal self-assembly to bottom-up tissue engineering provides a new theoretical framework and will help in the design of more predictable tissue-like structures.
Red/Far-Red Light Switchable Cargo Attachment and Release in Bacteria-Driven Microswimmers.
In bacteria-driven microswimmers, i.e., bacteriabots, artificial cargos are attached to flagellated chemotactic bacteria for active delivery with potential applications in biomedical technology. Controlling when and where bacteria bind and release their cargo is a critical step for bacteriabot fabrication and efficient cargo delivery/deposition at the target site. Toward this goal, photoregulating the cargo integration and release in bacteriabots using red and far-red light, which are noninvasive stimuli with good tissue penetration and provide high spatiotemporal control, is proposed. In the bacteriabot design, the surfaces of E. coli and microsized model cargo particles with the proteins PhyB and PIF6, which bind to each other under red light and dissociate from each other under far-red light are functionalized. Consequently, the engineered bacteria adhere and transport the model cargo under red light and release it on-demand upon far-red light illumination due to the photoswitchable PhyB-PIF6 protein interaction. Overall, the proof-of-concept for red/far-red light switchable bacteriabots, which opens new possibilities in the photoregulation in biohybrid systems for bioengineering, targeted drug delivery, and lab-on-a-chip devices, is demonstrated.
Photo‐ECM: A Blue Light Photoswitchable Synthetic Extracellular Matrix Protein for Reversible Control over Cell–Matrix Adhesion.
The dynamic and spatiotemporal control of integrin‐mediated cell adhesion to RGD motifs in its extracellular matrix (ECM) is important for understating cell biology and biomedical applications because cell adhesion fundamentally regulates cellular behavior. Herein, the first photoswitchable synthetic ECM protein, Photo‐ECM, based on the blue light switchable protein LOV2 is engineered. The Photo‐ECM protein includes a RGD sequence, which is hidden in the folded LOV2 protein structure in the dark and is exposed under blue light so that integrins can bind and cells can adhere. The switchable presentation of the RGD motif allows to reversibly mediate and modulate integrin‐based cell adhesions using noninvasive blue light. With this protein cell adhesions in live cells could be reversed and the dynamics at the cellular level is observed. Hence, the Photo‐ECM opens a new possibility to investigate the spatiotemporal regulation of cell adhesions in cell biology and is the first step toward a genetically encoded and light‐responsive ECM.
Phytochrome-Based Extracellular Matrix with Reversibly Tunable Mechanical Properties.
Interrogation and control of cellular fate and function using optogenetics is providing revolutionary insights into biology. Optogenetic control of cells is achieved by coupling genetically encoded photoreceptors to cellular effectors and enables unprecedented spatiotemporal control of signaling processes. Here, a fast and reversibly switchable photoreceptor is used to tune the mechanical properties of polymer materials in a fully reversible, wavelength-specific, and dose- and space-controlled manner. By integrating engineered cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 into a poly(ethylene glycol) matrix, hydrogel materials responsive to light in the cell-compatible red/far-red spectrum are synthesized. These materials are applied to study in human mesenchymal stem cells how different mechanosignaling pathways respond to changing mechanical environments and to control the migration of primary immune cells in 3D. This optogenetics-inspired matrix allows fundamental questions of how cells react to dynamic mechanical environments to be addressed. Further, remote control of such matrices can create new opportunities for tissue engineering or provide a basis for optically stimulated drug depots.
Blue Light Switchable Cell–Cell Interactions Provide
Reversible and Spatiotemporal Control Towards
Bottom-Up Tissue Engineering.
Controlling cell–cell interactions is central for understanding key cellular
processes and bottom-up tissue assembly from single cells. The challenge is
to control cell–cell interactions dynamically and reversibly with high spati-
otemporal precision noninvasively and sustainably. In this study, cell–cell
interactions are controlled with visible light using an optogenetic approach by
expressing the blue light switchable proteins CRY2 or CIBN on the surfaces of
cells. CRY2 and CIBN expressing cells form specific heterophilic interactions
under blue light providing precise control in space and time. Further, these
interactions are reversible in the dark and can be repeatedly and dynamically
switched on and off. Unlike previous approaches, these genetically encoded
proteins allow for long-term expression of the interaction domains and
respond to nontoxic low intensity blue light. In addition, these interactions
are suitable to assemble cells into 3D multicellular architectures. Overall, this
approach captures the dynamic and reversible nature of cell–cell interactions
and controls them noninvasively and sustainably both in space and time. This
provides a new way of studying cell–cell interactions and assembling cellular
building blocks into tissues with unmatched flexibility.
Optogenetic control of integrin-matrix interaction.
Optogenetic approaches have gathered momentum in precisely modulating and interrogating cellular signalling and gene expression. The use of optogenetics on the outer cell surface to interrogate how cells receive stimuli from their environment, however, has so far not reached its full potential. Here we demonstrate the development of an optogenetically regulated membrane receptor-ligand pair exemplified by the optically responsive interaction of an integrin receptor with the extracellular matrix. The system is based on an integrin engineered with a phytochrome-interacting factor domain (OptoIntegrin) and a red light-switchable phytochrome B-functionalized matrix (OptoMatrix). This optogenetic receptor-ligand pair enables light-inducible and -reversible cell-matrix interaction, as well as the controlled activation of downstream mechanosensory signalling pathways. Pioneering the application of optogenetic switches in the extracellular environment of cells, this OptoMatrix–OptoIntegrin system may serve as a blueprint for rendering matrix–receptor interactions amendable to precise control with light.
Engineering a light-responsive, quorum quenching biofilm to mitigate biofouling on water purification membranes.
Quorum quenching (QQ) has been reported to be a promising approach for membrane biofouling control. Entrapment of QQ bacteria in porous matrices is required to retain them in continuously operated membrane processes and to prevent uncontrollable biofilm formation by the QQ bacteria on membrane surfaces. It would be more desirable if the formation and dispersal of biofilms by QQ bacteria could be controlled so that the QQ bacterial cells are self-immobilized, but the QQ biofilm itself still does not compromise membrane performance. In this study, we engineered a QQ bacterial biofilm whose growth and dispersal can be modulated by light through a dichromatic, optogenetic c-di-GMP gene circuit in which the bacterial cells sense near-infrared (NIR) light and blue light to adjust its biofilm formation by regulating the c-di-GMP level. We also demonstrated the potential application of the engineered light-responsive QQ biofilm in mitigating biofouling of water purification forward osmosis membranes. The c-di-GMP-targeted optogenetic approach for controllable biofilm development we have demonstrated here should prove widely applicable for designing other controllable biofilm-enabled applications such as biofilm-based biocatalysis.
High-resolution Patterned Biofilm Deposition Using pDawn-Ag43.
Spatial structure and patterning play an important role in bacterial biofilms. Here we demonstrate an accessible method for culturing E. coli biofilms into arbitrary spatial patterns at high spatial resolution. The technique uses a genetically encoded optogenetic construct-pDawn-Ag43-that couples biofilm formation in E. coli to optical stimulation by blue light. We detail the process for transforming E. coli with pDawn-Ag43, preparing the required optical set-up, and the protocol for culturing patterned biofilms using pDawn-Ag43 bacteria. Using this protocol, biofilms with a spatial resolution below 25 μm can be patterned on various surfaces and environments, including enclosed chambers, without requiring microfabrication, clean-room facilities, or surface pretreatment. The technique is convenient and appropriate for use in applications that investigate the effect of biofilm structure, providing tunable control over biofilm patterning. More broadly, it also has potential applications in biomaterials, education, and bio-art.
Cyclic Stiffness Modulation of Cell‐Laden Protein–Polymer Hydrogels in Response to User‐Specified Stimuli Including Light.
Although mechanical signals presented by the extracellular matrix are known to regulate many essential cell functions, the specific effects of these interactions, particularly in response to dynamic and heterogeneous cues, remain largely unknown. Here, a modular semisynthetic approach is introduced to create protein–polymer hydrogel biomaterials that undergo reversible stiffening in response to user‐specified inputs. Employing a novel dual‐chemoenzymatic modification strategy, fusion protein‐based gel crosslinkers are created that exhibit stimuli‐dependent intramolecular association. Linkers based on calmodulin yield calcium‐sensitive materials, while those containing the photosensitive light, oxygen, and voltage sensing domain 2 (LOV2) protein give phototunable constructs whose moduli can be cycled on demand with spatiotemporal control about living cells. These unique materials are exploited to demonstrate the significant role that cyclic mechanical loading plays on fibroblast‐to‐myofibroblast transdifferentiation in 3D space. The moduli‐switchable materials should prove useful for studies in mechanobiology, providing new avenues to probe and direct matrix‐driven changes in 4D cell physiology.
Reversible hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties for optically controlling cell migration.
Synthetic hydrogels are widely used as biomimetic in vitro model systems to understand how cells respond to complex microenvironments. The mechanical properties of hydrogels are deterministic for many cellular behaviors, including cell migration, spreading, and differentiation. However, it remains a major challenge to engineer hydrogels that recapture the dynamic mechanical properties of native extracellular matrices. Here, we provide a new hydrogel platform with spatiotemporally tunable mechanical properties to assay and define cellular behaviors under light. The change in the mechanical properties of the hydrogel is effected by a photo-induced switch of the cross-linker fluorescent protein, Dronpa145N, between the tetrameric and monomeric states, which causes minimal changes to the chemical properties of the hydrogel. The mechanical properties can be rapidly and reversibly tuned for multiple cycles using visible light, as confirmed by rheological measurements and atomic force microscopybased nano-indentation. We further demonstrated real-time and reversible modulation of cell migration behaviors on the hydrogels through photo-induced stiffness switching, with minimal invasion to the cultured cells. Hydrogels with a programmable mechanical history and a spatially defined mechanical hierarchy might serve as an ideal model system to better understand complex cellular functions.