"Our research involves the construction of bioreporters that are used in anovel biosensor configuration to detect an organic pesticide (paraquat), a toxicmetal (arsenic), and aromatic compounds (solvents)."

Development of bioreporter-based chemical biosensor technology for the detection of chemical threat agents

Investigators: David E Nivens (Department of Food Science), Michael Franklin (Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University), Bruce Applegate (Department of Food Science), Carlos Corvalan (Department of Food Science)

Project Report 2005 - 2006

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Project Rationale

Our nation must not only protect against environmental sources of pollution that can contaminate the food supply but also guard against deliberate acts of terrorism intended to degrade human health and/or weaken our economic base. The overall goal for our interdisciplinary research is the development of a core bioreporter-based chemical biosensor (BCB) platform for the eventual production of inexpensive biosensors to detect chemical agents that threaten our environment and our food supply. The BCB platform consists of an enclosure/microenvironment system that contains minimal nutrients, genetically-modified bioreporters, and in some applications an analytical transducer. The technology exploits the abilities of living microorganisms: (i) to sense and react to chemical stimuli; (ii) to be genetically manipulated to contain reporter genes; and (iii) to form biofilms that promote survival. Enclosures/microenvironment systems will be developed to facilitate resuscitation of microorganisms from storage and sustain them within biofilms in an optimal sensing state for the detection of chemical agents. Our research involves the construction of bioreporters that are used in a novel biosensor configuration to detect an organic pesticide (paraquat), a toxic metal (arsenic), and aromatic compounds (solvents). This research is expected to enable the development of BCB technology for rapid, selective and sensitive detection of many chemical threat agents. After core technology is developed, inexpensive application-specific devices will be designed for potential use by farmers and/or scientists in a testing laboratory to identify environmental contamination or product tampering in both point-of-use and long-term monitoring applications.

Project Objectives

  • Develop prototype enclosure(s) that contains a micro-environment that supports bio-reporting biofilms and in some applications contains a transducer(s) to facilitate rapid detection and long-term monitoring of biological responses to toxic compounds.
  • Develop biofilm bioreporters for use in the enclosure/micro-environment for the detection of arsenic, paraquat, and aromatic solvents.
  • Combine constructed bioreporters with the prototype enclosure/micro-environments and obtain concentration- dependent bioreporter response data for detection of a chemical threat agent in food.
  • Use empirical data to develop models for understanding the nature of bacterial responses for improving the analytical performance of the biosensors.

Project Highlights

We have nearly completed the infrastructure for the core bioreporter-based sensor technology that will allow the development of application-specific sensors: (1) selection and testing of host strains, (2) constructing genetic systems that can be efficiently and rapidly inserted into the genome of the host strain, (3) development of test systems to understand natural and confined biofilms, (4) selection of appropriate transducers, and (5) development of mathematical models for testing.

Annual Report