A bacterial bioreporter for the detection of 1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazinane (RDX)

Amir Lifshitz, Benjamin Shemer, Carina Hazan, Etai Shpigel, Shimshon Belkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We report the design, construction, and testing of Escherichia coli-based bioluminescent bioreporters for the detection of 1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazinane (RDX), one of the most prevalent military-grade explosives in use today. These sensor strains are based on a fusion between the promoter of either the hmp (nitric oxide dioxygenase) or the hcp (a high-affinity nitric oxide reductase) E. coli gene, to the microbial bioluminescence luxCDABEG gene cassette. Signal intensity was enhanced in ∆hmp and ∆hcp mutants, and detection sensitivity was improved when the two gene promoters were cloned in tandem. The Photobacterium leiognathi luxCDABEG reporter genes were superior to those of Aliivibrio fischeri in terms of signal intensity, but in most cases inferior in terms of detection sensitivity, due to a higher background signal. Both sensor strains were also induced by additional nitro-organic explosives, as well as by nitrate salts. Sensitive detection of RDX in a solid matrix (either LB agar or sand) was also demonstrated, with the bioreporters encapsulated in 1.5-mm calcium alginate beads. Lowest RDX concentration detected in sand was 1.67 mg/kg sand. The bioreporter strains described herein may serve as a basis for a standoff detection technology of RDX-based explosive devices, including buried landmines. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5329-5336
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number18
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • 1,3,5-Trinitro-1,3,5-triazinane (RDX)
  • Bioluminescence
  • Biosensors
  • Explosives
  • Landmines
  • Microbial bioreporters


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