Evaluation of a biohybrid photoelectrochemical cell employing the purple bacterial reaction centre as a biosensor for herbicides

David J.K. Swainsbury, Vincent M. Friebe, Raoul N. Frese, Michael R. Jones

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74 Citations (Scopus)


The Rhodobacter sphaeroides reaction centre is a relatively robust and tractable membrane protein that has potential for exploitation in technological applications, including biohybrid devices for photovoltaics and biosensing. This report assessed the usefulness of the photocurrent generated by this reaction centre adhered to a small working electrode as the basis for a biosensor for classes of herbicides used extensively for the control of weeds in major agricultural crops. Photocurrent generation was inhibited in a concentration-dependent manner by the triazides atrazine and terbutryn, but not by nitrile or phenylurea herbicides. Measurements of the effects of these herbicides on the kinetics of charge recombination in photo-oxidised reaction centres in solution showed the same selectivity of response. Titrations of reaction centre photocurrents yielded half maximal inhibitory concentrations of 208. nM and 2.1. μM for terbutryn and atrazine, respectively, with limits of detection estimated at around 8. nM and 50. nM, respectively. Photocurrent attenuation provided a direct measure of herbicide concentration, with no need for model-dependent kinetic analysis of the signal used for detection or the use of prohibitively complex instrumentation, and prospects for the use of protein engineering to develop the sensitivity and selectivity of herbicide binding by the Rba. sphaeroides reaction centre are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-178
Number of pages7
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2014


  • Atrazine
  • Biosensor
  • Herbicide
  • Photocurrent
  • Photovoltaics
  • Reaction centre

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