This work investigated the hair-like appendages of Escherichia coli known as Type 1 fimbriae that enable natural adhesion to glycosylated substrates. Sequence alterations within the fimbrial gene cluster were found to be well-tolerated, evidenced by tagging the fimbriae with peptide-based probes. As a further development, fimbriae tips could be reconfigured to, in turn, alter cell binding. In particular, the fimbriae were fused with a genetically optimized peptide-for-inorganics to enable metal binding.
This work established methodologies to systematically survey cell adhesion properties across a suite of fimbriae-modified cell types as well as to direct patterned cell adhesion. Cell types were further customized for added complexity including turning on secondary gene expression and binding to gold surfaces. The former demonstrates potential for programmable gene switches and the latter for interfacing biology with inorganic materials. In general, the incorporation of 'programmed' cells into devices can be used to provide the feature of dynamic and automated cell response. The outcomes of this study are foundational toward the critical feature of deliberate positioning of cells as configurable biocomponentry. Overall, cellular integration into bioMEMs will yield advanced sensing and actuation.