We developed an efficient cell surface engineering method based on lipid-insertion and host–guest recognition. With this methodology, we tailored cell membranes with ß-cyclodextrin and subsequently manipulated cell behaviors through introducing photo-switchable guest molecule. Non-covalent nature afforded this method inherent reversibility. Furthermore, considering the remarkable molecular recognition property of aptamer, azobenzene-labeled aptamer was modified on cell surface through host–guest interaction and served as targeting ligand for selectively identifying target cells. Based on these, we designed a cell-based therapy for directing peripheral blood mononuclear cells to induce target cancer cell apoptosis. Our results provide new insights into engineering well-defined molecular recognition event on cell membrane to meet the demands of specific applications.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2016.12.006