Exterior design: Strategies for redecorating the bacterial surface with small molecules

Samir Gautam, Thomas J Gniadek, Taehan Kim, David A. Spiegel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Recombinant techniques for expressing heterologous proteins and sugars on the surface of bacteria have been known since the 1980s, and have proven useful in a variety of settings from biocatalysis to vaccinology. The past decade has also seen the emergence of novel methods that allow modification of bacterial surfaces with small non-biological compounds. Such technologies enable researchers to harness the unique properties of synthetic materials on a live bacterial platform, opening the door to an exciting new set of applications. Here we review strategies for bacterial surface display and describe how they have been applied thus far. We believe that chemical surface display holds great potential for advancing research in basic bacteriology and applied fields of biotechnology and biomedicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-267
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in biotechnology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Mia Huang and Chris Parker for their helpful suggestions. This work was supported by a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award (to D.A.S.), an Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award in Aging Research (to D.A.S.), a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Award (to D.A.S.), the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (to D.A.S.), a Novartis Early Career Award in Organic Chemistry (to D.A.S.), an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (BR2011-117 to D.A.S.), an NIH New Innovator Award (1DP2OD002913-01 to D.A.S.), an NIH R01 (GM100283-01A1 to D.A.S.), and an NIH MSTP training grant (T32GM07205 to S.G.).


  • Bacterial envelope
  • Bioorthogonal chemistry
  • Metabolic labeling
  • Small molecule
  • Surface display
  • Surface engineering


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