A simple and sensitive biosensor for rapid detection of nanoparticles in water
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Advances in nanoscience have led to a greater use of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) in numerous applications. Due to their small size and unique surface properties, ENPs have many desirable features. However, they also interact with living cells in potentially undesirable manners highlighting the need to develop improved detection systems to manage risks associated with their accidental occupational exposure or environmental release. However, the routine detection of ENPs has not yet been demonstrated, especially for aquatic environments. Using standard protein engineering techniques, we generated a protein-based biosensor that can sensitively detect negatively charged ENPs in aquatic matrices. In particular, we genetically engineered a green fluorescent protein with a poly-lysine tag (His-GFP-LYS) to facilitate its electrostatic interaction with commercially available negatively charged NPs. These 5–6-nm-sized NPs have metallic cores comprising gold, iron oxide, cerium oxide, and zinc oxide and are stabilized via poly-acrylic acid (PAA) coating. The interaction between the recombinant positively charged GFP and the PAA coating of the negatively charged NPs resulted in visually observable turbidity changes that were quantified using a portable spectrophotometer (NANODROP). These interactions were confirmed using dynamic light scattering and visualized using agarose native gel electrophoresis. This simple and portable system could detect ENPs resuspended in pure aqueous buffer (0.08 mg/L) and those resuspended in environmental matrices, such as pond water (0.6 mg/L). This detection system also sensed ENPs in the presence of moderate concentrations of natural organic matter that is ubiquitously present in surface waters. These results suggest that this biosensor system could be used for the routine, portable, and affordable detection of negatively-charged ENPs under environmentally relevant aquatic conditions.
KeywordsEngineered nanoparticles Biosensor Detection GFP Nanomaterial
The authors wish to thank the NRC-NSERC-BDC Nanotechnology Initiative (National Research Council-Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council-Business Development Bank of Canada) for financial support; and Vive Crop Protection for providing the nanomaterials.
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