Team:UNH Durham

Project Description

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) were infamous in the past, and they are still a threat today. PCB’s are organic compounds that were used extensively in various electrical industries in the past, specifically as a coolant. However, the production and usage was banned in the United States of America in 1979, and in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001. This action was in response to the discovery that PCB’s are non-biodegradable and cause serious neurological, reproductive and immune disorders in both humans and animals.

PCB’s are still present in many water sources around the world, and they may cause problems through bioaccumulation. The EPA set the standard that more than 0.0005ppm of PCB is bad for the environment and human health. Clean water is becoming one of the most important and dwindling resources globally.

Hence, the UNH iGEM Team aims to build a sensitive PCB biosensor that detects the base biphenyl structure in water sources. Bacteria like Pseudomonas pseuoalcaligenes, Acidovorax sp., Burkholderia, Luteibacter, Williamsia, etc. can degrade PCB’s, and the enzymes that do so are coded by the bph operon. We want to build a system based on the bph operon, such that production of an intermediate of the PCB degradation pathway will give a fluorescent output. Previous iGem teams have attempted to design similar biosensors based on the bph operon, but have struggled to obtain positive results. Teams such as Evry and Paris-Saclay had been unable to achieve positive results, and the current testing methods are unable to detect to the EPA’s standards for PCB. Our team aims to develop a more accurate and precise biosensing tool using bacterium to identify lower concentrations of PCB than are presently available.

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