Nodularin (NOD) is a cyclic penta-peptide hepatotoxin mainly produced by Nodularia spumigena
, reported from the brackish water bodies of various parts of the world. It can accumulate in the food chain and, for safety reasons, levels of NOD not only in water bodies but also in food matrices are of interest. Here, we report on a non-competitive immunoassay for the specific detection of NOD. A phage display technique was utilized to interrogate a synthetic antibody phage library for binders recognizing NOD bound to an anti-ADDA (3-Amino-9-methoxy-2,6,8-trimethyl-10-phenyldeca-4(E),6(E)-dienoic acid) monoclonal antibody (Mab). One of the obtained immunocomplex binders, designated SA32C11, showed very high specificity towards nodularin-R (NOD-R) over to the tested 10 different microcystins (microcystin-LR, -dmLR, -RR, -dmRR, -YR, -LY, -LF, -LW, -LA, -WR). It was expressed in Escherichia coli
as a single chain antibody fragment (scFv) fusion protein and used to establish a time-resolved fluorometry-based assay in combination with the anti-ADDA Mab. The detection limit (blank + 3SD) of the immunoassay, with a total assay time of 1 h 10 min, is 0.03 µg/L of NOD-R. This represents the most sensitive immunoassay method for the specific detection of NOD reported so far. The assay was tested for its performance to detect NOD using spiked (0.1 to 3 µg/L of NOD-R) water samples including brackish sea and coastal water and the recovery ranged from 79 to 127%. Furthermore, a panel of environmental samples, including water from different sources, fish and other marine tissue specimens, were analyzed for NOD using the assay. The assay has potential as a rapid screening tool for the analysis of a large number of water samples for the presence of NOD. It can also find applications in the analysis of the bioaccumulation of NOD in marine organisms and in the food chain.
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