Shape recognition of microbial cells by colloidal cell imprints
We have engineered a class of colloids which can recognize the shape and size of targeted microbial cells and selectively bind to their surfaces. These imprinted colloid particles, which we called “colloid antibodies”, were fabricated by partial fragmentation of silica shells obtained by templating the targeted microbial cells. We successfully demonstrated the shape and size recognition between such colloidal imprints and matching microbial cells. High percentage of binding events of colloidal imprints with the size matching target particles was achieved. We demonstrated selective binding of colloidal imprints to target microbial cells in a binary mixture of cells of different shapes and sizes, which also resulted in high binding selectivity. We explored the role of the electrostatic interactions between the target cells and their colloid imprints by pre-coating both of them with polyelectrolytes. Selective binding occurred predominantly in the case of opposite surface charges of the colloid cell imprint and the targeted cells. The mechanism of the recognition is based on the amplification of the surface adhesion in the case of shape and size match due to the increased contact area between the target cell and the colloidal imprint. We also tested the selective binding for colloid imprints of particles of fixed shape and varying sizes. The concept of cell recognition by colloid imprints could be used for development of colloid antibodies for shape-selective binding of microbes. Such colloid antibodies could be additionally functionalized with surface groups to enhance their binding efficiency to cells of specific shape and deliver a drug payload directly to their surface or allow them to be manipulated using external fields. They could benefit the pharmaceutical industry in developing selective antimicrobial therapies and formulations.