Environmental sensing of heavy metals through whole cell microbial biosensors: a synthetic biology approach. Academic Article uri icon


  • Whole cell microbial biosensors are offering an alternative means for rapid, on-site heavy metal detection. Based in microorganisms, biosensing constructs are designed and constructed to produce both qualitative and quantitative outputs in response to heavy metal ions. Previous microbial biosensors designs are focused on single-input constructs; however, development of multiplexed systems is resulting in more flexible designs. The movement of microbial biosensors from laboratory based designs toward on-site, functioning heavy metal detectors has been hindered by the toxic nature of heavy metals, along with the lack of specificity of heavy metals promoter elements. Applying a synthetic biology approach with alternative microbial chassis may increase the robustness of microbial biosensors and mitigate these issues. Before full applications are achieved, further consideration has to be made regarding the risk and regulations of whole cell microbial biosensor use in the environment. To this end, a standard framework for future whole cell microbial biosensor design and use is proposed.

publication date

  • 2015