Biosensors are regarded as a powerful tool to detect and monitor environmental contaminants, toxins, and, more generally, organic or chemical markers of potential threats to human health. They are basically composed of a sensor part made up of either live cells or biological active molecules coupled to a transducer/reporter technological element. Whole-cells biosensors may be based on animal tissues, bacteria, or eukaryotic microorganisms such as yeasts and microalgae. Although very resistant to adverse environmental conditions, yeasts can sense and respond to a wide variety of stimuli. As eukaryotes, they also constitute excellent cellular models to detect chemicals and organic contaminants that are harmful to animals. For these reasons, combined with their ease of culture and genetic modification, yeasts have been commonly used as biological elements of biosensors since the 1970s. This review aims first at giving a survey on the different types of yeast-based biosensors developed for the environmental and medical domains. We then present the technological developments currently undertaken by academic and corporate scientists to further drive yeasts biosensors into a new era where the biological element is optimized in a tailor-made fashion by in silico design and where the output signals can be recorded or followed on a smartphone.
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