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Antagonistic Enzymes in a Biocatalytic pH Feedback System Program Autonomous DNA Hydrogel Life Cycle

Enzymes regulate complex functions and active behavior in natural systems and have shown increasing prospect for developing self-regulating soft matter systems. Striving for advanced autonomous hydrogel materials with fully programmable, self-regulated life cycles, we combine two enzymes with an antagonistic pH-modulating effect in a feedback-controlled biocatalytic reaction network (BRN) and couple it to pH-responsive DNA hydrogels to realize hydrogel systems with distinct preprogrammable lag times and lifetimes in closed systems. The BRN enables precise and orthogonal internal temporal control of the “ON” and “OFF” switching times of the temporary gel state by modulation of programmable, nonlinear pH changes. The time scales are tunable by variation of the enzyme concentrations and additional buffer substances. The resulting material system operates in full autonomy after injection of the chemical fuels driving the BRN. The concept may open new applications inherent to DNA hydrogels, for instance, autonomous shape memory behavior for soft robotics. We further foresee general applicability to achieve autonomous life cycles in other pH switchable systems.

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