Bacterial biohybrid microswimmers aim at exploiting the inherent motion capabilities of bacteria (carriers) to transport objects (cargoes) at the microscale. One of the most desired properties of microswimmers is their ability to communicate with their immediate environment by processing the information and producing a useful response. Indeed, bacteria are naturally equipped with such communication skills. Hereby, two-component systems (TCSs) represent the key signal transducing machinery and enable bacteria to sense and respond to a variety of stimuli. We engineered a natural microswimmer based on the Gram-positive model bacterium Bacillus subtilis
for the development of biohybrids with sensing abilities. B. subtilis
naturally adhered to silica particles, giving rise to different motile biohybrids systems with variable ratios of carrier(s)-to-cargo(es). Genetically engineered TCS pathways allowed us to couple the binding to the inert particles with signaling the presence of antibiotics in their surroundings. Activation of the antibiotic-induced TCSs resulted in fluorescent bacterial carriers as a response readout. We demonstrate that the genetically engineered TCS-mediated signaling capabilities of B. subtilis
allow for the custom design of bacterial hybrid microswimmers able to sense and signal the presence of target molecules in the environment. The generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status of B. subtilis
makes it a promising candidate for human-related applications of these novel biohybrids.
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