An odorant-binding protein based electrical sensor to detect volatile organic compounds

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Artificial olfaction systems, such as electronic nose devices (ENs), can be used in various fields, from healthcare to food industry and the environmental sector. ENs consist of an array of sensors composed of different sensing materials. Incorporating Odorant Binding Proteins (OBPs) into gas-sensing materials can increase volatile organic compounds (VOCs) recognition and selectivity. OBPs are small soluble proteins found in vertebrates and insects, responsible for VOCs solubilization and transportation. In this work, OBP3 from Rattus norvegicus was selected to develop an OBP-based electrical VOC sensor, by optimizing protein production and immobilization on sensors surface. OBP3 was successfully produced in E. coli host cells (94 mg/L) and purified with high purity (88% purification yield, 96% purity). The protein folding and thermal stability were assessed by circular dichroism (Tm=71±1ºC) whereas ligand binding activity was verified in solution by fluorescence displacement against diisopropylphenol (Kd=0.24 µM). For the immobilization of OBP3 on gold interdigitated electrodes modified with reduced graphene oxide, we explored two strategies (covalent and non-covalent), establishing a reproducible and cost-effective methodology to develop OBP3-based electrical sensors. The non-covalent immobilization of a linker to the graphene-modified surface showed improved outcomes compared to the carbodiimide crosslinking chemistry. OBP3-sensors presented selectivity towards distinct model compounds in the gas phase (diisopropylphenol, dimethylpyrazine, menthone and decanol), in correlation with the dissociation constants measured by fluorescence displacement assays in solution. As a result, this study expands the practical applications of OBPs for gas-phase sensors, showcasing their potential for enhancing VOC detection.
Original languageEnglish
Article number135726
Number of pages10
JournalSensors and Actuators B: Chemical
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2024


  • Electronic nose
  • Gas sensor
  • Odorant-binding proteins
  • Volatile organic compounds


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