Development of biosensors based on Odorant Binding Proteins

  • Elena Tuccori

Student thesis: Phd


This PhD project aimed to investigate the possibility of using Odorant Binding Proteins (OBPs) as sensing layers of chemical sensors, for the detection of organic compounds in both vapour and liquid phases. OBPs are small soluble proteins present in high concentrations in the olfactory system of vertebrates and insects. OBPs are attractive in the biosensor field since they can bind odorants and pheromones in a reversible way. They are resistant to high temperatures and protease activity and they can be easily expressed in large amounts. OBPs belonging to different species of mammals and insects were utilised for developing biosensors relied on different transduction mechanisms. Recombinant OBPs were grafted on the gold electrode of transducers by using Self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of alkanethiols. The efficiency of the immobilisation method was proved by using electrochemical techniques. Quartz crystal microbalances (QCMs), screen-printed electrodes (SPEs) and interdigitated electrodes (IDEs) were employed for developing three types of OBP-based biosensors.I. QCMs functionalised with OBPs were tested against pheromones (i.e. bombykol and bombykal) and volatile compounds found in foodstuffs (i.e. pyrazine derivatives and geosmin) in vapour phase. The QCM based biosensors showed a good degree of selectivity and a detection limit of the order of parts per billion, in air. II. In liquid phase, impedimetric biosensors based on SPEs also showed a good selectivity and sensitivity being able to detect analyte concentrations of the order of 10-9 M. III. OBPs immobilised on the gold electrodes of IDEs were instead tested against S-(+) carvone vapour, proving that the binding activity of the proteins was preserved in vapour phase and can be quantified as variation of capacitance.The developed OBP biosensors showed good selectivity, sensitivity and stability over time in both liquid and vapour phase. The responses of the sensors were reversible, allowing to the device to be used several times. Moreover, the biosensors were label-free, hence the interaction between OBPs and ligand was directly detected without using auxiliary probes/species. With these findings, we envisage the use of our biosensors in several applications, including monitoring of the quality of food along the transportation and storage, controlling of pests and useful insects in agriculture, or as analytical devices for studying the dynamics in binding processes.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKrishna Persaud (Supervisor)


  • Self-assembeld monolayes
  • Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy
  • Inderdigitated electrodes
  • Odorant Binding Proteins
  • Biosensors
  • Quartz crystal microbalances

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