Point-of-Use Detection of Environmental Fluoride via a Cell-Free Riboswitch-Based Biosensor

Walter Thavarajah, Adam D. Silverman, Matthew S. Verosloff, Nancy Kelley-Loughnane, Michael C. Jewett, Julius B. Lucks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Advances in biosensor engineering have enabled the design of programmable molecular systems to detect a range of pathogens, nucleic acids, and chemicals. Here, we engineer and field-Test a biosensor for fluoride, a major groundwater contaminant of global concern. The sensor consists of a cell-free system containing a DNA template that encodes a fluoride-responsive riboswitch regulating genes that produce a fluorescent or colorimetric output. Individual reactions can be lyophilized for long-Term storage and detect fluoride at levels above 2 ppm, the Environmental Protection Agency's most stringent regulatory standard, in both laboratory and field conditions. Through onsite detection of fluoride in a real-world water source, this work provides a critical proof-of-principle for the future engineering of riboswitches and other biosensors to address challenges for global health and the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2020


  • biosensor
  • cell-free systems
  • diagnostics
  • field use
  • riboswitches
  • water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Point-of-Use Detection of Environmental Fluoride via a Cell-Free Riboswitch-Based Biosensor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this