Non-invasive evaluation of heavy metal uptake and storage in microalga using a fret-based heavy metal biosensor

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Year:
2014
Type of Publication:
Article
Authors:
  • Rajamani, Sathish
  • Torres, Moacir
  • Falcao, Vanessa
  • Grey, Jamie
  • Coury, Daniel
  • Colepicolo, Pio
  • Sayre, Richard T.
Journal:
Plant Physiology
Volume:
164
Number:
2
Pages:
1059-1067
Month:
February
BibTex:
Note:
First Published on December 24, 2013; doi:10.1104/pp.113.229765
Abstract:
We have developed a fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based heavy metal biosensor for the quantification of bioavailable free heavy metals in the cytoplasm of the microalga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. The biosensor is composed of an end-to-end fusion of cyan fluorescent protein (CFP), chicken metallothionein II (MT-II), and yellow fluorescent protein (YFP). In vitro measurements of YFP/CFP fluorescence emission ratios indicated that the addition of metals to the purified biosensor enhanced FRET between CFP and YFP consistent with heavy metal-induced folding of MT-II. A maximum YFP/CFP FRET ratio of 2.8 was observed in the presence of saturating concentrations of heavy metals. The sensitivity of the biosensor was greatest for Hg2+ followed by Cd2+ ≈ Pb2+ > Zn2+ > Cu2+. The heavy metal biosensor was unresponsive to metals that do not bind to MT-II (Na+ and Mg2+). When expressed in Chlamydomonas, we observed a differential metal-dependent response to saturating external concentrations (1.6 mM) of heavy metals (Pb2+ > Cd2+) that was unlike that observed for the isolated biosensor (in vitro). Significantly, analysis of metal uptake kinetics indicated that equilibration of the cytoplasm with externally applied heavy metals occurred within seconds. Our results also indicated that algae have substantial buffering capacity for free heavy metals in their cytosol, even at high external metal concentrations.
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