Cell-based assays utilizing reporter gene technology have been widely exploited for biosensing, as they provide useful information about the bioavailability and cell toxicity of target analytes. The long assay time due to gene transcription and translation is one of the main drawbacks of cell biosensors. We report the development of two yeast biosensors stably expressing human estrogen receptors α and β and employing NanoLuc as the reporter protein to upgrade the widely used yeast estrogen screening (YES) assays. A viability control strain was also developed based on a chimeric green-emitting luciferase, PLG2, expressed for the first time in Saccharomycescerevisiae. Thanks to their brightness, NanoLuc and PLG2 provided excellent sensitivity, enabling the implementation of these biosensors into low-cost smartphone-based devices. The developed biosensors had a rapid (1 h) response and reported on (anti)estrogenic activity via human estrogen receptors α and β as well as general sample toxicity. Under optimized conditions, we obtained LODs of 7.1 ± 0.4 nM and 0.38 ± 0.08 nM for E2 with nanoYESα and nanoYESβ, respectively. As a proof of concept, we analyzed real samples from plants showing significant estrogenic activity or known to contain significant amounts of phytoestrogens. Graphical abstract.
Keywords: Bioluminescence; Biosensor; Estrogen receptor; Luciferase; Smartphone.