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Validation of Genetically Engineered Bioluminescent Surfactant Resistant Bacteria as Toxicity Assessment Tools

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/eesa.1999.1792
  • Bioluminescence
  • Nonpolar Narcosis
  • Nonionic Surfactants
  • Structure–Activity Relationships.
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Engineering
  • Geography


Abstract Bacteria are useful organisms for measuring acute and chronic toxicity. The most popular toxicity tests utilize the inhibition of bioluminescence as an indication of toxicity. An extensive toxicity database on pure chemical compounds has been created using the bioluminescent microorganism, Vibrio fischeri. However, the use of the Microtox assay in applications for environmental samples is not always successful, due to the test organism. Because the genes for bioluminescence have been cloned from V. fischeri, environmentally relevant test strains can be readily constructed. In this study, surfactant-resistant bioluminescent bacterial strains were constructed by transferring a broad host range plasmid containing the bioluminescent genes under the regulation of a constitutive promoter into strains from several bacterial genera. Two test strains, Stenotrophomonas 3664 and Alcaligenes eutrophus 2050, were approximately 400 times more resistant to the nonionic surfactant polyoxyethylene 10 lauryl ether than V. fischeri and are useful for toxicity reduction evaluations of remediation processes which use surfactants for solubilization of hydrophobic pollutants. The use of these strains as alternative test organisms in the Microtox assay was evaluated using nonpolar narcosis as the baseline toxicity mechanisms. The two test strains and V. fischeri indicated linear fits of EC 50 values with the octanol/water partition ( K ow) for five nonpolar narcotic compounds in acute assays ( r 2>0.9) with a slope of approximately 1. For all three strains, the y-intercept values were approximately the same, indicating that sensitivity did not vary. These results indicate that the nonpolar narcosis baseline toxicity mechanism may be useful as a general tool to validate the functioning of genetically engineered bioluminescent microorganisms.

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