Optically-controlled bacterial metabolite for cancer therapy

Nat Commun. 2018 Apr 26;9(1):1680. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03233-9.


Bacteria preferentially accumulating in tumor microenvironments can be utilized as natural vehicles for tumor targeting. However, neither current chemical nor genetic approaches alone can fully satisfy the requirements on both stability and high efficiency. Here, we propose a strategy of "charging" bacteria with a nano-photocatalyst to strengthen their metabolic activities. Carbon nitride (C3N4) is combined with Escherichia coli (E. coli) carrying nitric oxide (NO) generation enzymes for photo-controlled bacterial metabolite therapy (PMT). Under light irradiation, photoelectrons produced by C3N4 can be transferred to E. coli to promote the enzymatic reduction of endogenous NO3- to cytotoxic NO with a 37-fold increase. In a mouse model, C3N4 loaded bacteria are perfectly accumulated throughout the tumor and the PMT treatment results in around 80% inhibition of tumor growth. Thus, synthetic materials-remodeled microorganism may be used to regulate focal microenvironments and increase therapeutic efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Biological Therapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / radiation effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitriles / chemistry*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Photochemical Processes


  • Nitriles
  • Nitric Oxide
  • cyanogen