National Research Council of Canada. NRC Biotechnology Research Institute
There is a continuing need for monitoring the health of the environment due to the presence of pollutants. Here, we review the development and attributes of biosensors by which bacteria have been genetically modified to express the luminescence genes, i.e. to glow, in a quantified manner, in response to pollutants. We have concentrated on the detection of organic hydrocarbon pollutants and discussed the molecular mechanisms by which some of these chemicals act as effector molecules on the respective regulatory systems. The future of environmental biosensors is predictably bright. As more knowledge is gathered on the sensing regulatory component, the possibility of developing targeted or pollutant-specific biosensors is promising. Moreover, the repertoire of biosensors for culprit organic pollutants is expected to be enlarged through advances in genomics technology and identification of new sensory or receptor molecules. The need for pollutant detection at concentrations in the parts per trillion range or biosensors configured in a nanoscale is anticipated.