The Development of a Bacterial Biosensor Designed to Detect Oxidative Chemicals in Water: Correlating Sensor Relevance to Mammalian Brain Cells and Assessing Bacterial Cell Immobilization Strategies

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Virginia Tech

Oxidative stress-inducing chemical contamination in the environment is a significant concern for public health. The depletion of antioxidants by these chemicals results in oxidative stress which may cause detrimental effects in many cell types. For example, multiple stress responses may be activated in bacteria and several disorders including neurodegenerative disorders may occur in mammalian organisms. Oxidative chemicals also have negative effects on engineered water systems as an oxidative stress response in bacteria has been implicated to cause process failure in wastewater treatment facilities. Therefore, it is essential to monitor oxidative chemical contamination in water environments to provide early warning of potential negative effects. Whole-cell biosensors that indicate bacterial stress responses to oxidative toxic agents can be powerful tools in environmental monitoring.

An oxidative stress response found in many Gram-negative heterotrophic bacteria called the glutathione-gated potassium efflux (GGKE) mechanism is a good biological indicator to be used in a biosensor designed to detect the presence of oxidative chemicals in water. The authors of this study propose the development of a GGKE biosensor using an environmental strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The abundance of the global antioxidant glutathione, the gating compound in GGKE, in various cell types suggests that there may be connections between the responses of the different cell types to oxidative stress. In this study, specific oxidative stress responses in two distantly related cell types were studied: the GGKE mechanism in Gram-negative heterotrophic bacteria, and mitochondrial dysfunction in rat brain cells. Furthermore, the use of an octanol-based emulsification method for the immobilization of P. aeruginosa in calcium alginate microbeads was evaluated for long-term mechanical stability, viability, and GGKE response of the immobilized cells. The immobilization of cells is an important factor in the design of a whole-cell biosensor, and must yield viable and active cells over time.

This study showed that the dose-dependent responses of GGKE in Pseudomonas aeruginosa cells and of mitochondrial dysfunction in a mixed culture of rat brain cells to a model oxidative electrophilic chemical, N-ethylmaleimide, correspond well to each other. We also showed that both responses are accompanied by the depletion of intracellular glutathione, which precedes the GGKE response in P. aeruginosa as well as mitochondrial damage in rat brain cells. Thus, this study suggests that bacterial responses to oxidative stress involving glutathione, such as GGKE, could potentially be used as an early warning to predict the presence of bioavailable oxidative chemicals that can induce oxidative stress in eukaryotic systems. Although further research is needed, this suggests that bacterial stress response biosensors may be used to predict oxidative stress responses in mammalian brain cells.

The octanol-based emulsification method produced P. aeruginosa encapsulated alginate microbeads with an average diameter of 200 μm. The microbeads were mechanically stable in solutions containing up to 20 mg/L K+ for 15 days. LIVE/DEAD® and specific oxygen uptake rate (SOUR) analyses showed that the microbead-immobilized cells recovered their membrane integrity within 5 days but not their net respiration potential. The microbead immobilized cells had no net GGKE potential in response to 50 mg/L N-ethylmaleimide after 14 days whereas water-based alginate bead (2mm) immobilized cells did, albeit at a reduced level to planktonic cells. Confirmation experiments revealed that octanol impeded cellular activities of the immobilized cells. Overall, this study showed that the octanol-based emulsification method is not suitable for the immobilization of P. aeruginosa for use in the GGKE biosensor and other microscale immobilization methods should be evaluated.

glutathione-gated potassium efflux, biosensor, alginate, oxidative stress, Pseudomonas aeruginosa