Detection of metal and other toxic compounds

The continuing increase in public concern on environmental pollution from industrial and agricultural sources has encouraged scientists to explore cost and time-effective alternatives to current chemistry-based methods in detecting pollutants.  Many of the up-to-date research in this field have mainly been focusing on heavy metal (mercury, cadmium, zinc, copper etc.), and fewer on organic compounds, where microorganisms are transformed with pollutant-inducible promoters linked to reporter genes that can be easily detected by change in colour or luminescence (Kohler (2000).  Reporter gene assays in environmental analysis.  Fresenius J Anal Chem. 366:769-779).

This chapter introduces patent documents that contain claims towards detection of metal and toxic compounds by use of transgenic organisms.  The following table lists the representative patent document, assignee, detecting substance, regulatory element and reporter gene, and host organism where applicable:

Patent document Assignee Detecting substance regulatory element reporter gene host organism
WO 1992/15687 VITO metal and xenobiotic compounds Alcaligenes eutrophus– derived promoters luxCDABE not specified
WO 1997/41251 VITO genotoxic compounds SOS regulated promoters reporter that emits light not specified
EP 649905 Toyota Central R&D Lab. mutagenic substances SOS gene (bacterial) luciferase not specified
US 2006/8837 U. Tennessee estrogenic agent estrogen response element luxAB Saccharomyces cerevisiae
US 7090992 U. Tennessee estrogenic agent not specified lux a collection of eukaryotic cells
US 6740521 Kaneka Corp, NIAIST chemicals or natural toxins which disrupt or disturb homeostasis in organisms hsp47 and SP1 reporter with SV40pA not specified
US 2001/034039 Lee & Kim toxic substances none luxAB(constitutive expression) Janthinobacterium lividum
US 5877398 University of British Columbia toxin hsp16promoter lacZ Caenorhabditis elegans
WO 1999/009202 Mangiarotti & Mangiarotti toxic substances not specified not specified Dictyostelium sp.
WO 2000/49150 University of Singapore steroid hormone or a steroid hormone derivative

heavy metals

estrogen- or other steroid hormone-inducible promoter

heavy metal-inducible promoter

(gene coding for a) fluorescent or chemiluminescent protein zebrafish
WO 1994/13831 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. environmental insult stress-inducible promoter luxCDABE not specified (or E. colifor US and CA granted patents)
WO 1995/19446 Virta and Karp (heavy) metal promoter regulatable by a heavy metal insect luciferase or a green fluorescent protein (GFP) not specified
WO 1990/12887 Bio-Orbit Oy factor that affects directly or indirectly the DNA, RNA and/or proteins of the cell or the synthesis mechanisms regulatable promoter not specified not specified
WO 2003/102223 EAWAG/UFZ inorganic and organic pollutants regulatory protein with at least two binding sites not specified not specified

There are other patent documents containing examples of transgenic bioreporter organisms that detect heavy metals and other toxic compounds, most of which are introduced in chapter 7: Biosensing systems due to the claim language of the patent documents (claims are not limited to metal or toxic compound detection).