Label-free biosensor detection of endocrine disrupting compounds using engineered estrogen receptors

Rita La Spina, Valentina E.V. Ferrero, Venera Aiello, Mattia Pedotti, Luca Varani, Teresa Lettieri, Luigi Calzolai, Willem Haasnoot, Pascal Colpo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDCs) are chemical substances shown to interfere with endogenous hormones affecting the endocrine, immune and nervous systems of mammals. EDCs are the causative agents of diseases including reproductive disorders and cancers. This highlights the urgency to develop fast and sensitive methods to detect EDCs, which are detrimental even at very low concentrations. In this work, we propose a label-free surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor method to detect specific EDCs (17 β-estradiol (E2), ethinyl-estradiol, 4-nonylphenol, tamoxifen) through their binding to estrogen receptor alpha (ERα). We show that the use of rationally designed ERα (as bio-recognition element) in combination with conformation-sensitive peptides (as amplification agent, resulting in increased responses) enables the detection of low parts per billion (ppb) levels of E2. As a proof of concept, this bioassay was used to detect E2 in (spiked) real water samples from fish farms, rivers and the sea at low ppb levels after concentration by solid phase extraction. In addition, the present SPR assay that combines a conformation-sensitive peptide with an array of ERα mutants is very promising for the assessment of the risk of potential estrogenic activity for chemical substances.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2017


  • 17β-estradiol
  • Amplification
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Label-free assay
  • Surface plasmon resonance
  • Water


Dive into the research topics of 'Label-free biosensor detection of endocrine disrupting compounds using engineered estrogen receptors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this