Hanna J. Wagner, Raphael Engesser, Kathrin Ermes, Christian Geraths, Jens Timmer, Wilfried Weber

Abstract: Synthetic biology applies engineering concepts to build cells that perceive and process information. Examples include cells engineered to perform basic digital or analog computation. These circuits serve as basis for the construction of complex integrated cellular networks that offer manifold applications in fundamental and applied research. Here, we introduce the concept of using design approaches and molecular tools applied in synthetic biology for the construction of interconnected biohybrid materials systems with information processing functionality. We validate this concept by modularly assembling protein and polymer building blocks to generate stimulus-responsive materials. Guided by a quantitative mathematical model, we next interconnect these materials into a materials system that acts as both a signal detector and as an amplifier based on a built-in positive feedback loop. The functionality and versatility of this materials system is demonstrated by the detection of enzymatic activities and drugs. The modular design concept presented here thus represents a blueprint for integrating synthetic biology-inspired information-processing circuits into polymer materials. As integrated sensors and actuators, the resulting smart materials systems could provide novel solutions with broad perspectives in research and development.