Escherichia coli ATCC 8739 Biosensor for Preservative Efficacy Testing
Melissa Yen Ying, Choong
The preservative challenge test is a regulatory requirement specified in various pharmacopoeias to determine the efficacy of preservatives. However, such testing is a labour-intensive repetitive task and often requires days before results can be generated. Microbial biosensors have the potential to provide a rapid and automated alternative to the traditional viable counting currently in use. However, the selection of appropriate promoters is essential. The bioluminescent reporter strains used in the current study comprise the Photorhabdus luminescence lux CDABE reporter genes under the control of five individual constitutive Escherichia coli promoters: outer lipoprotein (lpp); twin arginine translocase (tatA); lysine decarboxylase (ldc); lysyl t-RNA (lysS); and ribosomal protein (spc). The promoter plus lux CDABE constructs were cloned, ligated into the plasmid vector pBR322 and transformed into E. coli ATCC 8739. The bioluminescence intensity in the decreasing order of constitutive promoter was lpp > spc> tatA> ldc > lysS. The five biosensor strains tested successfully in PET assays and demonstrated accuracy with a minimum detection limit of 103 CFU/ml, a detection range of 6 orders magnitude, and yielded equivalent results to methods currently recommended by the pharmacopoeias. The bioluminescent biosensors were used to monitor the efficacy of preservatives; sorbic acid at concentrations of 0.031% to 0.2% at pH 5.0, and benzalkonium chloride at concentrations of 0.0062% to 0.00039% alone and in combination with 0.03% EDTA. The 99.9% percentage of bioluminescence reduction of tatA-lux, ldc-lux, lysS-lux, and spc-lux was statistically equivalent to the 3 log10 CFU/ml reduction as required by the Pharmacopeias’. Strong significant correlations between bioluminescence and the methods recommended by the pharmacopoeias were obtained when the biosensor strains were challenged with preservatives, for all except lpp-lux E. coli. The bioluminescence expressed by the lpp-lux biosensor was significantly lower during long-term stationary phase than it was for any of the other biosensors and was also significantly lower than for any of the other biosensors in the presence of preservatives. Since the plasmid copy number and viable counts for lpp-lux did not change under these conditions, it suggests that perhaps lpp-lux was down regulated under stress conditions. There were no statistically significant differences between the results of the bioluminescence assays and the results of the viable count and ATP chemiluminescence assay. Virtual foot printing (using Regulon DB database) demonstrated that two crp binding sites overlapping the -10 regions are located on the negative strand of the lysS promoter sequences and that one crp binding site is located in lpp. The biosensor strains ldc-lux exhibited levels of bioluminescence per cell significantly lower than spc in the presence of preservatives whilst there was a significant increase in bioluminescence per cell by tatA-lux under alkaline conditions (pH 8.9) during long-term stationary phase. Amongst the five biosensor strains tested in the current work, it was determined that the spc-lux strain would be the most attractive candidate for further work, since the bioluminescence expressed per cell was significantly greater, by 10-1000 times, than that expressed by the other four promoters when challenged with the preservatives tested with excellent significant correlations between bioluminescence expression and viable counts in the PET assays with the various preservatives in this study (R2: 8.79-1.00). The bioluminescent biosensor strains showed no statistical differences from the control strains (wildtype E.coli ATCC 8739 and E.coli carrying a promoterless [pBR322.lux] for adneylate energy charge (AEC), plasmid copy number (PCN) bioluminescence or viable counts over 28 days. The emission of bioluminescence by the four bioreporter strains across 28 days is reflected by the stability of PCN with correlations of 0.78-0.90, except for lpp-lux with R2: 0.59. The following promoter elements were found likely to assist greater expression of bioluminescence: an A+T level of approximately 50% between the -40 and -60 regions (the UP element); a G+C level of approximately 50% within the -10 and +1 regions; the extended -10 region and -10 region of consensus sequence RpoD (σ70/D).