Glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, is the most widely used herbicide on the globe, and has recently been linked to an increased risk in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in exposed individuals. Therefore, detection and monitoring of glyphosate levels in water and soil is important for public safety. Here, we describe a biosensor for glyphosate based on an engineered Escherichia coli phosphonate-binding protein (PhnD). Mutations in the binding pocket were introduced to convert PhnD into a glyphosate-binding protein. A fluorescence group attached near the hinge of the protein was added to monitor binding of glyphosate and to determine its concentration in unknown samples. The resulting engineered biosensor can detect glyphosate in tap water and in soil samples treated with the herbicide at submicromolar concentrations, well below the limit for drinking water in the USA. Incorporating this biosensor in a device would allow rapid and continuous monitoring of glyphosate in water and soil samples.
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