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Whole Cell Biosensors For (Eco)Toxicity Screening: Alternatives For The Future

J. Robbens, M. Maras, W. Laureyn and W. De Coen
University Antwerp, BE

Keywords:
cellular biosensor, (eco)toxicology, environment

Abstract:
As a response to the emerging environmental threats, the European Parliament introduced tough new rules for the testing and approval of thousands of chemicals. Questions are raised towards the practicality of the new legislation as around 12 million laboratory animals need to be sacrificed. No in vitro toxicological procedure is available to cope with this demand so far. ‘Classical reporters’ are cumbersome and not suited for high throughput screening. Cellular biosensor are ideally suited for these purposes and straightforward measuring systems preferably based on electrochemical detection need to be developed. Crucial is that the “bio”-part needs large-scale modifications to be compatible with biosensor nanotechnology. We have developed different novel cellular reporter systems compatible with nanosensor technology. Cytoplasmic reporters allow easy registration with an optical sensor. As chemical or environmental samples often show measuring interferences (color, turbidity), membrane based reporter systems have been designed, in which cells display a membrane protein at the extracellular environment upon toxic exposure. Homologous proteins have been shown to be proficient in membrane exposure, and unlike heterologous proteins do not interfere with cellular growth. It is possible to determine with a battery of stress related genes the TRP (Toxicological Response Profile) of individual compounds and wastes.

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