Structured silicon for revealing transient and integrated signal transductions in microbial systems

Xiang Gao, Yuanwen Jiang, Yiliang Lin, Kyoung Ho Kim, Yin Fang, Jaeseok Yi, Lingyuan Meng, Hoo Cheol Lee, Zhiyue Lu, Owen Leddy, Rui Zhang, Qing Tu, Wei Feng, Vishnu Nair, Philip J. Griffin, Fengyuan Shi, Gajendra S. Shekhawat, Aaron R. Dinner, Hong Gyu Park, Bozhi Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Bacterial response to transient physical stress is critical to their homeostasis and survival in the dynamic natural environment. Because of the lack of biophysical tools capable of delivering precise and localized physical perturbations to a bacterial community, the underlying mechanism of microbial signal transduction has remained unexplored. Here, we developed multiscale and structured silicon (Si) materials as nongenetic optical transducers capable of modulating the activities of both single bacterial cells and biofilms at high spatiotemporal resolution. Upon optical stimulation, we capture a previously unidentified form of rapid, photothermal gradient–dependent, intercellular calcium signaling within the biofilm. We also found an unexpected coupling between calcium dynamics and biofilm mechanics, which could be of importance for biofilm resistance. Our results suggest that functional integration of Si materials and bacteria, and associated control of signal transduction, may lead to hybrid living matter toward future synthetic biology and adaptable materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaay2760
JournalScience Advances
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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Copyright © 2020 The Authors,

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