Use of yeast species as the biocomponent for priority environmental contaminants biosensor devices
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Along with an increasing understanding of the harmful effects on the environment of a wide range of pollutants has come the need for more sensitive, faster and less expensive detection methods of identification and quantitation. Many environmental pollutants occur in low levels and often in complex matrices thus analysis can be difficult, time consuming and costly. Because of the availability and easy cultivation of the microorganisms with potentially high specificity, there is considerable interest in the use of living microorganisms as the analytical component (the biocomponent) of sensors for pollutants. While a number of biosensors using bacteria have been developed, yeast has been comparatively rarely used as the biocomponent. Yeast are attractive because they are easy to culture and they are eukaryotes which means their biochemistry is in many respects closer to that of higher organisms. This thesis describes the development of whole cell bioassays that use yeast cells as a sensing element and redox mediators to probe the intracellular redox reactions to monitor the catabolic activity of the yeast resulting from the external substrate, steady-state voltammetry is utilised as the electrochemical detection technique. The isogenic differential enzyme analysis (IDEA) concept of Lincoln Ventures Limited, lead NERF funded research consortium uses bacteria that have been cultured using specific organic pollutants as the carbon source which are the biocomponent in sensors. The use of wild type yeast Arxula adeninivorans that has the ability to use a very wide variety of substrates as sources of carbon and nitrogen was used as an alternative to bacteria to validate the “IDEA” concept. Naphthalene and di-butyl phthalate were chosen as model target contaminant molecules. The performance, detection limits and the usefulness of yeast based biosensor applications for environmental analysis are discussed. This thesis also describes the development and optimisation of a simple, cost effective in vivo estrogens bioassay for the detection of estrogens using either genetically modified or a wild type yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In this study, catabolic repression by glucose was exploited to achieve specificity to estrogens in complex environmental samples that eliminates the requirement for conventional sample preparation. This is the first time that the use of wild type yeast to quantify estrogens has been reported. The attractive features of the bioassay are its use of a non-GMO organism, its speed, its high specificity and sensitivity with a detection limit of 10-15 M. The similarity of binding affinities for major estrogens to those of human estrogens receptors makes this in vivo estrogen bioassay very useful for analytical/screening procedures. The electrochemical detection method also makes it easy to interface with a variety of electronic devices.