DETECTION OF PARA-CYMENE,
A MICROBIAL-GENERATED VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUND (MVOC),
BY USE OF A BIOLUMINESCENT BIOSENSOR, A PROOF OF CONCEPT
Edward L. Worthington
Southern Oregon University
Kathleen Daumer and Dr. Jay Garland
Kennedy Space Center, FL
All environments inhabited by humans contain microbes. The detection and elimination of harmful fungi and bacteria in closed system environments such as spacecraft is of vital importance. Biological waste products of microbes can cause Òsick building syndrome,Ó structural damage, and pose a fire hazard. Traditional means of detecting and quantifying these microbes, GC/MS and HPLC, are too bulky and labor intensive to operate in space. Biosensors provide an alternative to conventional instrumentation. This study examined the use of bioluminescent biosensors for the detection and quantification of microbial-generated volatile organic compounds (MVOCÕs). A strain of Pseudomonas fluorescens containing the lux operon from Vibrio ficsheri was suspended in an alginate bead and exposed to para-cymene. The MVOC, para-cymene, can be metabolized by P. fluorescens. This strain has been engineered to stimulate activation of the lux operon resulting in the production of bioluminescence with para-cymene metabolism. A non-linear qualitative but perhaps non-quantifiable relationship was observed between para-cymene concentration and electric current generated by bioluminescence.