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Detecting bioavailable toxic metals and metalloids from natural water samples using luminescent sensor bacteria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2661-2666
Number of pages6
JournalWater Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


We have generated microbial sensors for analyzing the presence of various metals or metalloids by recombinant DNA technology. The strains are based on strictly regulated promoters controlling the expression of the firefly luciferase gene in microbial cells. The regulator-reporter constructs are located in shuttle plasmids capable of replicating in gram-negative or -positive microbial organisms. The sensors developed are real-time indicators of metal responsive gene expression giving results in approximately 30 min, with optimal induction times ranging from 60 to 240 min. We describe here the performance of these metal sensing bacteria for the assessment of different water samples spiked with lead, arsenic, mercury or cadmium. We show that these bacteria are sensitive detectors of metal bioavailability, which is difficult or even impossible to measure by traditional analytical chemistry methods. All measurements were done using freeze-dried bacteria, which makes these sensors reagent-like and also easy to use in field conditions. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • luciferase, luc-gene, environment, cadmium, mercury, arsenite, ESCHERICHIA-COLI, ARSENITE, LUCIFERASE, ANTIMONITE, MERCURY, LEAD, EXPRESSION, BIOSENSOR, CADMIUM, GENES