Here, we present a novel technique to immobilize magnetic particles onto whole Gluconobacter oxydans in situ via a synthetic adhesive biomimetic material inspired by the protein glues of marine mussels. Our approach involves simple coating of a cell adherent polydopamine film onto magnetic nanoparticles, followed by conjugation of the polydopamine-coated nanoparticles to G. oxydans which resulted in cell aggregation. After optimization, 21.3 mg (wet cell weight) G. oxydans per milligram of nanoparticle was aggregated and separated with a magnet. Importantly, the G. oxydan aggregates showed high specific activity and good reusability. The facile approach offers the potential advantages of low cost, easy cell separation, low diffusion resistance, and high efficiency. Furthermore, the approach is a convenient platform technique for magnetization of cells in situ by direct mixing of nanoparticles with a cell suspension. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109: 2970–2977. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.