Whole cell biosensing via recA::mCherry and LED-based flow-through fluorometry

R. L. Martineau, V. Stout, B. C. Towe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A miniature flow-through optical cell has been developed with the potential for integration into a stand-alone, potentially disposable whole-cell biosensor platform. The compact and inexpensive optical system is comprised of closely coupled light-emitting diodes (LEDs), light-to-frequency (LTF) photodiodes, and celluloid filters. The system has been optimized to measure fluorescent reporters produced by cultures of biosensor cells in liquid suspension. As demonstration subjects, Escherichia coli cells carrying medium-copy plasmids with fluorescent reporter fusions to the rec promoter were exposed to the DNA-damaging agent mitomycin C (MMC). As reporter proteins, green fluorescent protein (GFP) and red fluorescent protein (RFP) were compared for suitability in the compact instrument. The RFP mCherry outperformed GFP (GFPmut3.1) as a reporter protein in the developed system on two counts. First, measurement distortions due to high optical density suspensions are minimal using RFP compared to GFP. Second, the limit of detection for MMC is estimated at 0.25 nM for recA::mCherry and 2.0 nM for recA::gfpmut3.1. Finally, a measurement method is presented whereby multiple channels of optical data are calibrated in an integrated fashion to allow simultaneous measurement of fluorescence and biomass concentration. The method substantially eliminates optical distortions due to dense samples and thus obviates the conventional need for sample dilution prior to measurement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-766
Number of pages8
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 15 2009


  • Escherichia coli
  • Green fluorescent protein
  • Light-emitting diode
  • Red fluorescent protein
  • Whole-cell biosensor
  • mCherry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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