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Nat Biotechnol DOI:10.1038/s41587-020-0571-7

Cell-free biosensors for rapid detection of water contaminants.

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsJung, JK, Alam, KK, Verosloff, MS, Capdevila, DA, Desmau, M, Clauer, PR, Lee, JWook, Nguyen, PQ, Pastén, PA, Matiasek, SJ, Gaillard, J-F, Giedroc, DP, Collins, JJ, Lucks, JB
JournalNat Biotechnol
Date Published2020 Jul 06

Lack of access to safe drinking water is a global problem, and methods to reliably and easily detect contaminants could be transformative. We report the development of a cell-free in vitro transcription system that uses RNA Output Sensors Activated by Ligand Induction (ROSALIND) to detect contaminants in water. A combination of highly processive RNA polymerases, allosteric protein transcription factors and synthetic DNA transcription templates regulates the synthesis of a fluorescence-activating RNA aptamer. The presence of a target contaminant induces the transcription of the aptamer, and a fluorescent signal is produced. We apply ROSALIND to detect a range of water contaminants, including antibiotics, small molecules and metals. We also show that adding RNA circuitry can invert responses, reduce crosstalk and improve sensitivity without protein engineering. The ROSALIND system can be freeze-dried for easy storage and distribution, and we apply it in the field to test municipal water supplies, demonstrating its potential use for monitoring water quality.


Alternate JournalNat. Biotechnol.
PubMed ID32632301
Grant List1929912 / / National Science Foundation (NSF) /
DBI-1757973 / / National Science Foundation (NSF) /
1452441 / / National Science Foundation (NSF) /
1929912 / / National Science Foundation (NSF) /
R35-GM118157 / / U.S. Department of Health & Human Services | NIH | Center for Information Technology (Center for Information Technology, National Institutes of Health) /