Genetically Modified E. coli as an Alternative Biosensor of Cyanide and Cyanide Compounds

Cyanide is considered an extremely harmful toxic for the environment and living organisms since it inhibits the cellular respiration at the level of electron transport chain.  In the industrial sector, cyanide is used to produce paper, paints, textiles and plastics. It is also very common in the mining industry as a way to recover metals. Due to its application and toxicity, it is necessary to monitor and keep the cyanide at a subtoxic level.

We will incorporate genes that will allow the bacteria to become a biosensor with the capacity to detect the presence of cyanide and cyanide compounds by adding the expression of a reporter gene (RFP) under the control of a promoter inducible by these compounds. This gene comes from the bacteria Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes. This new tecnique, which will be used to detect water and soil contamination, will also become a platform so that in the future we could incorporate a gene that allows the bacteria, not only detect, but also degrade these compounds using a method that is accessible and environmentally friendly through bioremediation.

In order for the bacteria to degrade cyanide, it needs not only the metabolic route, but a sort of resistance to these compounds. For this reason, we will also add cyanide resistant genes (cioAB) to elevate the detection potential of our biosensor. This will provide the bacteria an alternate route for the electron transportation insensitive to cyanide.