Programmable microbial ink for 3D printing of living materials produced from genetically engineered protein nanofibers

Anna M. Duraj-Thatte, Avinash Manjula-Basavanna, Jarod Rutledge, Jing Xia, Shabir Hassan, Arjirios Sourlis, Andrés G. Rubio, Ami Lesha, Michael Zenkl, Anton Kan, David A. Weitz, Yu Shrike Zhang, Neel S. Joshi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Living cells have the capability to synthesize molecular components and precisely assemble them from the nanoscale to build macroscopic living functional architectures under ambient conditions. The emerging field of living materials has leveraged microbial engineering to produce materials for various applications but building 3D structures in arbitrary patterns and shapes has been a major challenge. Here we set out to develop a bioink, termed as “microbial ink” that is produced entirely from genetically engineered microbial cells, programmed to perform a bottom-up, hierarchical self-assembly of protein monomers into nanofibers, and further into nanofiber networks that comprise extrudable hydrogels. We further demonstrate the 3D printing of functional living materials by embedding programmed Escherichia coli (E. coli) cells and nanofibers into microbial ink, which can sequester toxic moieties, release biologics, and regulate its own cell growth through the chemical induction of rationally designed genetic circuits. In this work, we present the advanced capabilities of nanobiotechnology and living materials technology to 3D-print functional living architectures.

Original languageBritish English
Article number6600
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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