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Institute for Research in Biomedicine
Istituto di Ricerca in Biomedicina

Via Vincenzo Vela 6 - CH-6500 Bellinzona
Tel. +41 91 820 0300 - Fax +41 91 820 0302 - info [at] irb [dot] usi [dot] ch

RADAR: Rationally Designed Aquatic Receptors for the detection of organic pollutants

Research area: Structural Biology

Group leaders: Luca Varani


Status: In progress

The FP7 research consortium RADAR aims at developing label-free biosensor platforms for the monitoring of organic pollutants in the environment and for the surveillance of industrial production processes. The so-called Estrogen Disrupting Compounds (EDCs) are a class of pollutants capable of binding to human and animal estrogen receptors and disrupting their normal function. EDCs are known to be responsible for diseases ranging from cancer to sex changes in aquatic animals. Thousands of different EDCs exist, many of which still unknown. The concept behind the RADAR project is simple: EDCs exert their adverse function by binding to the Estrogen Receptor protein (ER). By using the ER as a bio-recognition element we can detect all compounds capable of binding to it and, therefore, potentially harmful.

Our role in the RADAR consortium is to design and produce a rationally modified ER that can 1) be easily attached to a sensor surface (via chemical tags); 2) be produced at low cost (E.Coli); 3) have an altered binding selectivity and increased affinity for selective organic compounds, so that a binding event would signal the presence of a particular class of compounds.

Structural analysis and computational docking allowed us to design a mutated ER capable of binding bis-phenolic compounds with increased activity in comparison to the wild type protein. This mutated ER has been successfully produced, stabilized for a period of several months and attached to the surface of a label-free biosensor platform developed by the RADAR consortium.