Sci Adv. 2022 Nov 4;8(44):eade0073. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.ade0073. Epub 2022 Nov 4.
Engineered living materials (ELMs) are gaining traction among synthetic biologists, as their emergent properties and nonequilibrium thermodynamics make them markedly different from traditional materials. However, the aspiration to directly use living cells as building blocks to create higher-order structures or materials, with no need for chemical modification, remains elusive to synthetic biologists. Here, we report a strategy that enables the assembly of engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae into self-propagating ELMs via ultrahigh-affinity protein/protein interactions. These yeast cells have been genetically engineered to display the protein pairs SpyTag/SpyCatcher or CL7/Im7 on their surfaces, which enable their assembly into multicellular structures capable of further growth and proliferation. The assembly process can be controlled precisely via optical tweezers or microfluidics. Moreover, incorporation of functional motifs such as super uranyl-binding protein and mussel foot proteins via genetic programming rendered these materials suitable for uranium extraction from seawater and bioadhesion, respectively, pointing to their potential in chemical separation and biomedical applications.