Bioluminescent detection of zearalenone using recombinant peptidomimetic Gaussia luciferase fusion protein


The development of a bioluminescent immunosensor is reported for the determination of zearalenone (ZEA) based on a peptide mimetic identified by phage display. The peptide mimetic GW, with a peptide sequence GWWGPYGEIELL, was used to create recombinant fusion proteins with the bioluminescent Gaussia luciferase (GLuc) that were directly used as tracers for toxin detection in a competitive immunoassay without the need for secondary antibodies or further labeling. The bioluminescent sensor, based on protein G–coupled magnetic beads for antibody immobilization, enabled determination of ZEA with a detection limit of 4.2 ng mL−1 (corresponding to 420 μg kg−1 in food samples) and an IC50 value of 11.0 ng mL−1. The sensor performance was evaluated in spiked maize and wheat samples, with recoveries ranging from 87 to 106% (RSD < 20%, n = 3). Finally, the developed method was applied to the analysis of a naturally contaminated reference matrix material and good agreement with the reported concentrations was obtained.

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Belen Patiño from the Department of Biology (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) is gratefully acknowledged for providing the blank maize samples analyzed in this work.


This study was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (RTI2018–096410-B-C21). R.P. acknowledges UCM for a research grant. S. Daunert and S. Deo would like to thank the National Institutes of Health, NIGMS (R01GM114321, R01GM127706). This work was also supported by the National Science Foundation grant (CHE-1506740, CBET-1841419) to S. Daunert and S. Deo. S. Daunert is grateful to the Miller School of Medicine of the University of Miami for the Lucille P. Markey Chair in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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The manuscript was written through contributions of all authors, and all authors have given approval to the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Elena Benito-Peña or María C. Moreno-Bondi.

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Peltomaa, R., Fikacek, S., Benito-Peña, E. et al. Bioluminescent detection of zearalenone using recombinant peptidomimetic Gaussia luciferase fusion protein. Microchim Acta 187, 547 (2020).

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  • Bioluminescence
  • Gaussia luciferase
  • Mycotoxin
  • Zearalenone
  • Food safety