Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Diatom biosensor could shine light on future nanomaterials: Discovery could lead to new methods for environmental remediation and speeding up chemical reactions

A side and overhead view of the microscopic marine diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana. PNNL scientists used this species to develop a fluorescent biosensor that changes its glow in the presence of the sugar ribose.
Photo courtesy of Nils Kroger, Universitat Regensburg.
A side and overhead view of the microscopic marine diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana. PNNL scientists used this species to develop a fluorescent biosensor that changes its glow in the presence of the sugar ribose.

Photo courtesy of Nils Kroger, Universitat Regensburg.

Abstract:
A glow coming from the glassy shell of microscopic marine algae called diatoms could someday help us detect chemicals and other substances in water samples. And the fact that this diatom can glow in response to an external substance could also help researchers develop a variety of new, diatom-inspired nanomaterials that could solve problems in sensing, catalysis and environmental remediation.

Diatom biosensor could shine light on future nanomaterials: Discovery could lead to new methods for environmental remediation and speeding up chemical reactions

Sequim, WA | Posted on March 22nd, 2012

Fluorescence is the key characteristic of a new biosensor developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The biosensor, described in a paper published this week in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, includes fluorescent proteins embedded in a diatom shell that alter their glow when they are exposed to a particular substance.

"Like tiny glass sculptures, the diverse silica shells of diatoms have long intrigued scientists," said lead author and molecular biologist Kate Marshall, who works out of PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Wash. "And the way our biosensor works could make diatoms even more attractive to scientists because it could pave the way for the development of novel, synthetic silica materials."

Diatoms are perhaps best known as the tiny algae that make up the bulk of phytoplankton, the plant base of the marine food chain that feeds the ocean's creatures. But materials scientists are fascinated by diatoms for another reason: the intricate, highly-ordered patterns that make up their microscopic shells, which are mostly made of silica. Researchers are looking at these minuscule glass cages to solve problems in a number of areas, including sensing, catalysis and environmental remediation.

PNNL Laboratory Fellow and corresponding author Guri Roesijadi found inspiration for this biosensor in previous work by other researchers, who showed it's possible to insert proteins in diatom shells through genetic engineering. Using that work as a starting point, Roesijadi, Marshall and their PNNL colleagues aimed to use fluorescent proteins to turn diatoms into a biosensor. They specifically aimed to create a reagent-less biosensor, meaning one that detects a target substance on its own and without depending on another chemical or substance.

Well-equipped diatom

As a test case, the PNNL team inserted genes for their biosensor into Thalassiosira pseudonana, a well-studied marine diatom whose shell resembles a hatbox. The new genes allowed the diatoms to produce a protein that is the biosensor.

At the heart of the biosensor is the ribose-binding protein, which, as the name suggests, attaches to the sugar ribose. Each ribose-binding protein is then flanked by two other proteins — one that glows blue and another that glows yellow. This three-protein complex attaches to the silica shell while the diatom grows.

In the absence of ribose, the two fluorescent proteins sit close to one another. They're close enough that the energy in the blue protein's fluorescence is easily handed off, or transferred, to the neighboring yellow protein. This process, called fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or FRET, is akin to the blue protein shining a flashlight at the yellow protein, which then glows yellow.

But when ribose binds to the diatom, the ribose-binding protein changes its shape. This moves the blue and yellow fluorescent proteins apart in the process, and the amount of light energy that the blue protein shines on the yellow protein declines. This causes the biosensor to display more blue light.

Microscopic light show

Regardless of whether or not ribose is bound to the diatom's biosensor, the biosensor always emits some blue or yellow glow when it's exposed to energy under a microscope. But the key difference is how much of each kind of light is displayed.

The PNNL team distinguished between light from the two proteins with a fluorescence microscope that was equipped with a photon sensor. The sensor allowed them to measure the intensities of the unique wavelengths of light given off by each of the fluorescent proteins. By calculating the ratio of the two wavelengths, they could determine if the diatom biosensor was exposed to ribose, and how much of ribose was present.

The team also succeeded in making the biosensor work with the shell alone, after it was removed from the living diatom. Removing the living diatom provides researchers greater flexibility in how and where the silica biosensor can be used. The Office of Naval Research, which funded the research, believes biosensors based on modifying a diatom's silica shell may prove useful for detecting threats such as explosives in the marine environment.

"With this research, we've made our important first steps to show it's possible to genetically engineer organisms such as diatoms to create advanced materials for numerous applications," Marshall said.

Co-authors on the paper include scientists at EMSL, DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL's Richland, Wash., campus. They used EMSL's mass spectrometry capabilities to verify the team had the correct ribose-binding and fluorescent proteins before adding them to the diatoms.

####

About Pacific Northwest National Laborator
Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. PNNL employs 4,700 staff, has an annual budget of nearly $1.1 billion, and has been managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by Ohio-based Battelle since the laboratory's inception in 1965.

EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, is a national scientific user facility sponsored by the Department of Energy's Office of Science. Located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., EMSL offers an open, collaborative environment for scientific discovery to researchers around the world. Its integrated computational and experimental resources enable researchers to realize important scientific insights and create new technologies.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Franny White
PNNL
(509) 375-6904

Copyright © Pacific Northwest National Laborator

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

REFERENCE: Kathryn E. Marshall, Errol W. Robinson, Shawna M. Hengel, Liljana Pasa-Tolic, Guritno Roesijadi, "FRET Imaging of Diatoms Expressing a Biosilica-Localized Ribose Sensor," PLoS ONE, March 21, 2012, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033771:

Related News Press

News and information

New non-invasive technique could revolutionize the imaging of metastatic cancer September 17th, 2014

Toward making lithium-sulfur batteries a commercial reality for a bigger energy punch September 17th, 2014

Recruiting bacteria to be technology innovation partners: September 17th, 2014

Nanoscience makes your wine better September 17th, 2014

Laboratories

Elusive Quantum Transformations Found Near Absolute Zero: Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University researchers measured the quantum fluctuations behind a novel magnetic material's ultra-cold ferromagnetic phase transition September 15th, 2014

'Squid skin' metamaterials project yields vivid color display: Rice lab creates RGB color display technology with aluminum nanorods September 15th, 2014

Berkeley Lab Licenses Boron Nitride Nanotube Technology: New material has unique mechanical and electronic properties September 13th, 2014

Advanced Light Source Sets Microscopy Record| Berkeley Lab Researchers Achieve Highest Resolution Ever with X-ray Microscopy September 11th, 2014

Chemistry

Development of Algorithm for Accurate Calculation of Average Distance Travelled by Low-Speed Electrons without Energy Loss that Are Sensitive to Surface Structure September 11th, 2014

Rice chemist wins rare NSF Special Creativity Award: Grant extension will bolster Zubarev's effort to produce gold nanorods September 8th, 2014

Iranian, Spanish Scientists Produce Recyclable Catalyst by Using Nanoparticles September 3rd, 2014

Production of Toxic Ion Nanosorbents with High Sorption Capacity in Iran August 17th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

New non-invasive technique could revolutionize the imaging of metastatic cancer September 17th, 2014

Recruiting bacteria to be technology innovation partners: September 17th, 2014

Nanoribbon film keeps glass ice-free: Rice University lab refines deicing film that allows radio frequencies to pass September 16th, 2014

‘Small’ transformation yields big changes September 16th, 2014

Sensors

Nanoscience makes your wine better September 17th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

First Colloid and Polymer Science Lecture awarded to Orlin D. Velev: Chemical engineer honored for outstanding research in colloid science September 12th, 2014

UT Arlington research uses nanotechnology to help cool electrons with no external sources September 11th, 2014

Discoveries

New non-invasive technique could revolutionize the imaging of metastatic cancer September 17th, 2014

Toward making lithium-sulfur batteries a commercial reality for a bigger energy punch September 17th, 2014

Recruiting bacteria to be technology innovation partners: September 17th, 2014

Nanoscience makes your wine better September 17th, 2014

Materials/Metamaterials

Nanoribbon film keeps glass ice-free: Rice University lab refines deicing film that allows radio frequencies to pass September 16th, 2014

‘Small’ transformation yields big changes September 16th, 2014

Elusive Quantum Transformations Found Near Absolute Zero: Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University researchers measured the quantum fluctuations behind a novel magnetic material's ultra-cold ferromagnetic phase transition September 15th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Announcements

New non-invasive technique could revolutionize the imaging of metastatic cancer September 17th, 2014

Toward making lithium-sulfur batteries a commercial reality for a bigger energy punch September 17th, 2014

Nanoscience makes your wine better September 17th, 2014

Effective Nanotechnology Innovations to Receive Mustafa Prize September 16th, 2014

Military

Nanoribbon film keeps glass ice-free: Rice University lab refines deicing film that allows radio frequencies to pass September 16th, 2014

'Squid skin' metamaterials project yields vivid color display: Rice lab creates RGB color display technology with aluminum nanorods September 15th, 2014

Fonon at Cutting-Edge of 3D Military Printing: Live-Combat Scenarios Could See a Decisive Advantage with 3D Printing September 15th, 2014

Seeking Nanoscale Defenses for Biological and Chemical Threats: WPI co-organizes a NATO workshop to improve the detection and decontamination of biological and chemical agents September 13th, 2014

Environment

Iranian Nano Scientists Create Flame-Resistant Polymers September 13th, 2014

NanoStruck has a High Recovery Rate on Mine Tailings: retrieval of up to 96% of Gold, 88% of Silver and 86% of Palladium September 12th, 2014

Nanostruck announces 87.6% recovery of 56 GMS/ton silver tailings samples September 12th, 2014

Boosting armor for nuclear-waste eating microbes September 12th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE