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Programmable living assembly of materials by bacterial adhesion


The field of engineered living materials aims to construct functional materials with desirable properties of natural living systems. A recent study demonstrated the programmed self-assembly of bacterial populations by engineered adhesion. Here we use this strategy to engineer self-healing living materials with versatile functions. Bacteria displaying outer membrane-anchored nanobody–antigen pairs are cultured separately and, when mixed, adhere to each other to enable processing into functional materials, which we term living assembled material by bacterial adhesion (LAMBA). LAMBA is programmable and can be functionalized with extracellular moieties up to 545 amino acids. Notably, the adhesion between nanobody–antigen pairs in LAMBA leads to fast recovery under stretching or bending. By exploiting this feature, we fabricated wearable LAMBA sensors that can detect bioelectrical or biomechanical signals. Our work establishes a scalable approach to produce genetically editable and self-healable living functional materials that can be applied in biomanufacturing, bioremediation and soft bioelectronics assembly.

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Fig. 1: LAMBA can be flexibly processed into diverse structures.
Fig. 2: Programmable LAMBA enables diverse sequential bioconversions.
Fig. 3: LAMBA functioned as self-healing materials.
Fig. 4: LAMBA as stretchable sensors for wearable devices.

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Data availability

The authors declare that all the source data processed for figures generation in this study are available within the paper, source data file and the supplementary data files. Any additional information is available upon reasonable request. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code that supports the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We thank D.S. Glass for sharing plasmids; X. Shen for sharing strains and instructive comments; L. Jiang for insightful comments on trehalose synthesis experiments; F. Jin and S. Huang for assistance in microscopy and microfluidic instruments setup; C. Liu and W. Liu for help in strain engineering; the Testing Technology Center of Materials and Devices and the Tsinghua Shenzhen International Graduate School for TEM instrument usage. This study was partially supported by National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant nos. 2018YFA0903000 and 2020YFA0908100 to Z.D.: these two grants provide equal support), National Natural Science Foundation of China National Natural Science Foundation of China grant nos. 81927804 (Z.L.) and 32071427 (Z.D.). Shenzhen Science and Technology Program grant no. KQTD20180413181837372 (Z.D.).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



B.C. designed and performed the experiments, interpreted the results and wrote the paper. W.K. assisted in experimental setup and data interpretation. J.S. designed and performed the experiments, interpreted the results and revised the paper. R.Z. performed the experiments, interpreted the results and revised the paper. Yue Y. and A.X. assisted in experimental setup and data interpretation of microfluidic and microscopy. M.Y., M.W. and J.H. assisted in performing experiments and experimental setup in electronic circuit assembly, 3D printing and rheology measurement. Y.C., L.T. and Q.T. assisted in performing experiments and experimental setup in living fiber generation and EMG measurement. Yin Y., G.L. and L.Y. assisted in research design, experimental setup, data interpretation and paper revisions. Z.L. conceived the research, assisted in the experimental design, results interpretation and paper revisions. Z.D. conceived the research, designed the experiments, interpreted the results and wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Zhiyuan Liu or Zhuojun Dai.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Chemical Biology thanks Neel Joshi and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1-21, Tables 1–4 and Videos 1–3.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

Growth of the LAMBA fiber observed by microscopy.

Supplementary Video 2

LAMBA sensor monitored the cyclic finger joint motion.

Supplementary Video 3

The traditional sensor made of gold film failed to monitor the finger joint bending due to the limitation of the stretchability.

Supplementary Data

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

One file for Fig. 1, containing all source data.

Source Data Fig. 2

One file for Fig. 2, containing all source data.

Source Data Fig. 3

One file for Fig. 3, containing all source data.

Source Data Fig. 4

One file for Fig. 4, containing all source data.

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Chen, B., Kang, W., Sun, J. et al. Programmable living assembly of materials by bacterial adhesion. Nat Chem Biol 18, 289–294 (2022).

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