Methods that allow soft matter to be fabricated with controlled structure and function would be beneficial for applications ranging from flexible electronics to regenerative medicine. Here, the assembly of a multifunctional gelatin matrix is demonstrated by triggering its self-assembly and then enzymatically assembling biological functionality. Triggered self-assembly relies on electrodeposition of the pH-responsive hydrogelator, 9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl-phenylalanine (Fmoc-Phe), in response to electrical inputs that generate a localized pH-gradient. Warm solutions of Fmoc-Phe and gelatin are co-deposited and, after cooling to room temperature, a physical gelatin network forms. Enzymatic assembly employs the cofactor-independent enzyme microbial transglutaminase (mTG) to perform two functions: crosslink the gelatin matrix to generate a thermally stable chemical gel and conjugate proteins to the matrix. To conjugate globular proteins to gelatin these proteins are engineered to have short lysine-rich or glutamine-rich fusion tags to provide accessible residues for mTG-catalysis. Viable bacteria can be co-deposited and entrapped within the crosslinked gelatin matrix and can proliferate upon subsequent incubation. These results demonstrate the potential for enlisting biological materials and mechanisms to biofabricate multifunctional soft matter.
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