To date, different kinds of biosensing elements have been used effectively for environmental monitoring. Microbial cells seem to be well-suited for this task: they are cheap, adaptable to variable field conditions and give a measurable response to a broad number of chemicals. Among different pollutants, heavy metals are still a major problem for the environment. A reasonable starting point for the selection of a biorecognition element to develop a biosensor for metals could be that of a microorganism that exhibits good mechanisms to cope with metals. Pseudomonads are characterized by the secretion of siderophores (e.g., pyoverdine), low-molecular weight compounds that chelate Fe3+
during iron starvation. Pyoverdine is easily detected by colorimetric assay, and it is suitable for simple online measurements. In this work, in order to evaluate pyoverdine as a biorecognition element for metal detection, the influence of metal ions (Fe3+
), but also of temperature, pH and nutrients, on microbial growth and pyoverdine regulation has been studied in P. fluorescens.
Each of these variables has been shown to influence the synthesis of siderophore: for instance, the lower the temperature, the higher the production of pyoverdine. Moreover, the concentration of pyoverdine produced in the presence of metals has been compared with the maximum allowable concentrations indicated in international regulations (e.g., 98/83/EC), and a correlation that could be useful to build a colorimetric biosensor has been observed.