Lithographic Patterning of Photoreactive Cell-Adhesive Proteins

We describe a novel, simple method for the photolithographic patterning of cell-adhesive proteins. Intrinsically photoreactive proteins are synthesized in Escherichia coli through incorporation of the non-canonical, photosensitive amino acid para-azidophenylalanine. Upon ultraviolet irradiation at 365 nm, proteins form cross-linked films with elastic moduli that can be tuned by varying the concentration of photoreactive amino acid in the expression medium. Films of these proteins can be directly patterned using standard photolithographic techniques. We demonstrate the utility of this method of protein patterning by creating stable arrays of fibroblast cells on an engineered protein “photoresist”.