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Title: Developing Highly Sensitive Micro-Biosensors for in-situ Monitoring Mercury and Chromium(IV) Contaminants by Genetically-evolving and Computer-designing Metal-binding Proteins

Mercury has been well known as an environmental pollutant to the environment and to cause serious effects on human health for several decades. To effectively control mercury pollution and reduce mercury damages, the sensitive determination of mercury is essential. Currently, many different types of sensor-based assays have been developed, while the whole-cell biosensor has been gaining increasingly attentions due to its easy reproducibility and the possibility to greatly reduce the cost. However, significant improvements on the specificity, sensitivity, stability and simplicity of the whole-cell biosensor are still needed prior to its eventual commercialization. Sponsored by US Department of Energy under the contract agreement DE-FG02-07ER64410, we applied the special synthetic biology and directed evolution strategies to improve the effectiveness and performance of whole-cell biosensors. We have constructed different whole-cell biosensors for the mercuric ion and methylmercury detection with metalloregulator MerR, fluorescent protein mCherry and organomercurial lyase MerB. By introducing the mercuric transporter MerT, we were able to increase the detection sensitivity of whole-cell biosensors by at least one fold. By introducing the bio-amplification genetic circuit based on the gene cascade expression system of PRM-cI from bacteriophage l and Pm-XylS2 from Pseudomonas putida, we have increased the detection sensitivity of whole-cell biosensorsmore » by 1~2 folds in our tested conditions. With the directed evolution of MerR and subsequent high-throughput screening via color assay and microplate screening, we have dramatically increased the detection sensitivity by up to 10 folds at low concentration of mercury (II) of 1-10nM. Structural modeling and computational analysis of the mutated MerR showed that many mutations could cause the change of a loop to helix, which could be responsible for the increased mercury sensitivity.« less
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OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
California Institute of Technology
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE)
Country of Publication:
United States