A test strip platform based on a whole-cell microbial biosensor for simultaneous on-site detection of total inorganic mercury pollutants in cosmetics without the need for predigestion.Biosens Bioelectron 2020; 150:111899BB
Mercury pollutants such as mercuric chloride (HgCl2), mercurous chloride (Hg2Cl2) and mercuric ammonium chloride (Hg(NH2)Cl) are often found in cosmetics. Previous attempts at the on-site detection of mercury were hindered by the complicated and dangerous pretreatment procedure of converting various forms of mercury to Hg (II) ions. In this study, a test strip platform was developed based on a whole-cell microbial biosensor for the simultaneous detection of soluble and insoluble inorganic mercury pollutants in cosmetics without the need for predigestion. The genetic circuits with constitutively expressed MerR as sensor proteins and inducible red fluorescent protein (RFP) as the reporter were introduced into Escherichia coli to construct the mercury detection biosensor. The RFP fluorescence intensity of this biosensor showed a excellent linear relationship (R2 = 0.9848) with the Hg (II) concentration ranging from 50 nM to 10 μM in Luria-Bertani (LB) broth. Further research indicated that this biosensor could respond not only to Hg (II) ions but also to insoluble Hg2Cl2 and Hg2Cl2. The transcriptomic results confirmed the mercury conversion ability of the whole-cell biosensor from a gene expression perspective. This biosensor was embedded on filter paper to form a test strip, which could be used to determine whether the total inorganic mercury pollutants in cosmetics exceeded 1 mg/kg. Therefore, this strip provided a low cost, easy-to-use, and instrument-independent method for the detection of mercury pollution in cosmetics, while this study revealed the unique advantages of microbial biosensors in the automatic bioconversion of targets.