Regulating bacterial behavior within hydrogels of tunable viscoelasticity

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New York : Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Engineered living materials (ELMs) are a new class of materials in which living organism incorporated into diffusive matrices uptake a fundamental role in material’s composition and function. Understanding how the spatial confinement in 3D affects the behavior of the embedded cells is crucial to design and predict ELM’s function, regulate and minimize their environmental impact and facilitate their translation into applied materials. This study investigates the growth and metabolic activity of bacteria within an associative hydrogel network (Pluronic-based) with mechanical properties that can be tuned by introducing a variable degree of acrylate crosslinks. Individual bacteria distributed in the hydrogel matrix at low density form functional colonies whose size is controlled by the extent of permanent crosslinks. With increasing stiffness and decreasing plasticity of the matrix, a decrease in colony volumes and an increase in their sphericity is observed. Protein production surprisingly follows a different pattern with higher production yields occurring in networks with intermediate permanent crosslinking degrees. These results demonstrate that, bacterial mechanosensitivity can be used to control and regulate the composition and function of ELMs by thoughtful design of the encapsulating matrix, and by following design criteria with interesting similarities to those developed for 3D culture of mammalian cells.

Engineered living material, bacterial hydrogel, cell encapsulation, dynamic hydrogel, bacterial-materials interactions
Bhusari, S., Sankaran, S., & del Campo, A. (2022). Regulating bacterial behavior within hydrogels of tunable viscoelasticity (Version publishedVersion). Version publishedVersion. New York : Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.