Office of Undergraduate Research

Biosensors for environmental mercury and other heavy metals

Goal: Create ultra-sensitive sensors for detecting mercury in water, sediment and biological samples (e.g. fish) in real time. Rationale: Mercury binding proteins from bacteria coupled to two different fluorescence when mercury binds to the protein, resulting in the production of an ultra-sensitive mercury sensor. The sensor can either be expressed in zebrafish to create real time sentinel fish or expressed in bacteria, proteins purified and used in microtiter plate fluorescent assays. Because the sensor is already present in the organism and does not need to be expressed the sensor will detect mercury in real tome. Similar constructs can be used to detect other heavy metals. Because this is a ratiometric detection system the amount of mercury in water, sediment and biological samples can be quantified readily.

This project is located at the School of Freshwater Science: 600 E. Greenfield Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53204

***Campus Shuttle Service to The School of Freshwater Science is now available!***

Tasks and responsibilities:

Students role: Use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify mercury (mer) resistance genes from mercury-resistant bacteria, clone the resulting DNA fragment and verify its identity as a mer protein encoding gene by DNA sequence analysis. The DNA fragment contained mer gene(s) will be inserted into an expression plasmid for over production of the mer protein, mer proteins purified and used in mercury binding assays.