Bioelectronic control of a microbial community using surface-assembled electrogenetic cells to route signals

Nat Nanotechnol. 2021 Jun;16(6):688-697. doi: 10.1038/s41565-021-00878-4. Epub 2021 Mar 29.


We developed a bioelectronic communication system that is enabled by a redox signal transduction modality to exchange information between a living cell-embedded bioelectronics interface and an engineered microbial network. A naturally communicating three-member microbial network is 'plugged into' an external electronic system that interrogates and controls biological function in real time. First, electrode-generated redox molecules are programmed to activate gene expression in an engineered population of electrode-attached bacterial cells, effectively creating a living transducer electrode. These cells interpret and translate electronic signals and then transmit this information biologically by producing quorum sensing molecules that are, in turn, interpreted by a planktonic coculture. The propagated molecular communication drives expression and secretion of a therapeutic peptide from one strain and simultaneously enables direct electronic feedback from the second strain, thus enabling real-time electronic verification of biological signal propagation. Overall, we show how this multifunctional bioelectronic platform, termed a BioLAN, reliably facilitates on-demand bioelectronic communication and concurrently performs programmed tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives
  • 4-Butyrolactone / metabolism
  • Cells, Immobilized / chemistry
  • Electrodes
  • Electronics / methods*
  • Equipment Design
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / biosynthesis
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / chemistry
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Microbiota
  • Microorganisms, Genetically-Modified / genetics
  • Microorganisms, Genetically-Modified / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • GBP3 protein, human
  • Repressor Proteins
  • oxyR protein, E coli
  • homoserine lactone
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Gold
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • 4-Butyrolactone