Single-cell yolk-shell nanoencapsulation for long-term viability with size-dependent permeability and molecular recognition

Li Wang, Yu Li, Xiao Yu Yang, Bo Bo Zhang, Noëlle Ninane, Henk J. Busscher, Zhi Yi Hu, Cyrille Delneuville, Nan Jiang, Hao Xie, Gustaaf Van Tendeloo, Tawfique Hasan, Bao Lian Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Like nanomaterials, bacteria have been unknowingly used for centuries. They hold significant economic potential for fuel and medicinal compound production. Their full exploitation, however, is impeded by low biological activity and stability in industrial reactors. Though cellular encapsulation addresses these limitations, cell survival is usually compromised due to shell-to-cell contacts and low permeability. Here, we report ordered packing of silica nanocolloids with organized, uniform and tunable nanoporosities for single cyanobacterium nanoencapsulation using protamine as an electrostatic template. A space between the capsule shell and the cell is created by controlled internalization of protamine, resulting in a highly ordered porous shell-void-cell structure formation. These unique yolk-shell nanostructures provide long-term cell viability with superior photosynthetic activities and resistance in harsh environments. In addition, engineering the colloidal packing allows tunable shell-pore diameter for size-dependent permeability and introduction of new functionalities for specific molecular recognition. Our strategy could significantly enhance the activity and stability of cyanobacteria for various nanobiotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernwaa097
JournalNational Science Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • cell surface engineering
  • harsh condition resistance
  • high photosynthetic ability
  • ordered colloidal packing
  • protein internalization
  • thiol-functionalization


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