The ability to mechanically manipulate and control the spatial arrangement of biological materials is a critical capability in biomedicine and synthetic biology. Ultrasound has the ability to manipulate objects with high spatial and temporal precision via acoustic radiation force, but has not been used to directly control biomolecules or genetically defined cells. Here, we show that gas vesicles (GVs), a unique class of genetically encoded gas-filled protein nanostructures, can be directly manipulated and patterned by ultrasound and enable acoustic control of genetically engineered GV-expressing cells. Due to their differential density and compressibility relative to water, GVs experience sufficient acoustic radiation force to allow these biomolecules to be moved with acoustic standing waves, as demonstrated within microfluidic devices. Engineered variants of GVs differing in their mechanical properties enable multiplexed actuation and act as sensors of acoustic pressure. Furthermore, when expressed inside genetically engineered bacterial cells, GVs enable these cells to be selectively manipulated with sound waves, allowing patterning, focal trapping and translation with acoustic fields. This work establishes the first genetically encoded nanomaterial compatible with acoustic manipulation, enabling molecular and cellular control in a broad range of contexts.
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