Southern Utah/Project Description
Southern Utah University's iGEM team is developing a cyanide biosensor. This project idea was inspired by the 2006 University of Edinburgh iGEM team which developed an arsenic biosensor. Like arsenic, cyanide is a toxic compound that can contaminate water. Currently, the most common ways for cyanide to come into contact with humans are through industrial wastes and through the root crop cassava. Cassava is a major part of the diet for about 300-500 million people living in the tropics and subtropics.
There are currently already several methods for detecting cyanide in water. However, these methods are time consuming and require many steps. We would like to engineer a strain of bacteria that could produce a signal in response to the presence of cyanide. There are already some strains of bacteria such as Pseudomonas fluorescens PfO-1 that produce enzymes such as nitrilase/cyanide hydratase to degrade cyanide. We believe that the transcription of the genes for these enzymes may be dependent on the presence of cyanide. Therefore, we would like to modify the currently existing genes in the Pseudomonas strain so that GFP is produced in response to this toxic compound instead of the usual cyanide degrading enzymes. A bacterial strain with these capabilities may provide quicker detection of cyanide in the future.