10 Citations (Scopus)


Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are constructed from easily obtainable ingredients that are often unregulated and difficult to trace. Salts of the oxyhalide perchlorate are frequently used as oxidisers in IEDs and in commercially available munitions, thus a reliable detection is needed to aid forensic investigations and the tracing of environmental ground or surface water contamination. We introduce the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a biosensor for the presence of perchlorate, a promising alternative to the costly, technically challenging and time-consuming current perchlorate detection methods. Perchlorate uptake dynamics in C. elegans were first validated using ion exchange chromatography followed by assessing the effects of perchlorate on key life-point indices to verify the suitability of the nematodes as a forensic biosensor. Whole genome microarrays and qPCR analyses established that a set of immune and stress response genes were enriched during perchlorate exposure. A nematode strain (agIs219) containing an integrated copy of the significantly overexpressed t24b8.5 gene promoter followed by a GFP reporter gene was shown to fluoresce in a perchlorate dose dependent manner with a limit of detection (LOD) of 0.5 mg mL-1. Whilst chemicals commonly used in the construction of IEDs did not induce fluorescence, exposure to other oxyhalides did, highlighting the presence of possible shared stress response pathways. Burnt wire sparklers containing potassium perchlorate elicited fluorescence while other non-perchlorate containing post-blast explosion matrices did not. This demonstrates how C. elegans can be used to screen for perchlorate at environmental hotspots, an optimization, possibly with other target transgenes, is required to enable the detection of perchlorate at concentrations below 0.5 mg mL-1. This journal is

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-336
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Methods
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2021


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