Single-cell multimodal imaging uncovers energy conversion pathways in biohybrids

Nat Chem. 2023 Oct;15(10):1400-1407. doi: 10.1038/s41557-023-01285-z. Epub 2023 Jul 27.


Microbe-semiconductor biohybrids, which integrate microbial enzymatic synthesis with the light-harvesting capabilities of inorganic semiconductors, have emerged as promising solar-to-chemical conversion systems. Improving the electron transport at the nano-bio interface and inside cells is important for boosting conversion efficiencies, yet the underlying mechanism is challenging to study by bulk measurements owing to the heterogeneities of both constituents. Here we develop a generalizable, quantitative multimodal microscopy platform that combines multi-channel optical imaging and photocurrent mapping to probe such biohybrids down to single- to sub-cell/particle levels. We uncover and differentiate the critical roles of different hydrogenases in the lithoautotrophic bacterium Ralstonia eutropha for bioplastic formation, discover this bacterium's surprisingly large nanoampere-level electron-uptake capability, and dissect the cross-membrane electron-transport pathways. This imaging platform, and the associated analytical framework, can uncover electron-transport mechanisms in various types of biohybrid, and potentially offers a means to use and engineer R. eutropha for efficient chemical production coupled with photocatalytic materials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Electron Transport
  • Multimodal Imaging*