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Biosens Bioelectron. 2003 Apr;18(4):405-13.

RNA biosensor for the rapid detection of viable Escherichia coli in drinking water.

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Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


A highly sensitive and specific RNA biosensor was developed for the rapid detection of viable Escherichia coli as an indicator organism in water. The biosensor is coupled with protocols developed earlier for the extraction and amplification of mRNA molecules from E. coli [Anal. Biochem. 303 (2002) 186]. However, in contrast to earlier detection methods, the biosensor allows the rapid detection and quantification of E. coli mRNA in only 15-20 min. In addition, the biosensor is portable, inexpensive and very easy to use, which makes it an ideal detection system for field applications. Viable E. coli are identified and quantified via a 200 nt-long target sequence from mRNA (clpB) coding for a heat shock protein. For sample preparation, a heat shock is applied to the cells prior to disruption. Then, mRNA is extracted, purified and finally amplified using the isothermal amplification technique Nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA). The amplified RNA is then quantified with the biosensor. The biosensor is a membrane-based DNA/RNA hybridization system using liposome amplification. The various biosensor components such as DNA probe sequences and concentration, buffers, incubation times have been optimized, and using a synthetic target sequence, a detection limit of 5 fmol per sample was determined. An excellent correlation to a much more elaborate and expensive laboratory based detection system was demonstrated, which can detect as few as 40 E. coli cfu/ml. Finally, the assay was tested regarding its specificity; no false positive signals were obtained from other microorganisms or from nonviable E. coli cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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