This work describes the construction and voltammetric characterization of a nitrite biosensor based on a cytochrome c-type nitrite reductase (ccNiR) and the Nation ionomeric matrix loaded with methyl viologen as redox mediator. Despite the potential electrostatic repulsions between the anionic substrate and the Nation sulfonate groups, the resulting bioelectrode exhibited electrocatalytic activity toward nitrite. This phenomenon must be due to the nonuniformity of the enzyme/Nafion membrane, which allows the direct interaction between the substrate and numerous enzyme molecules. Nevertheless, the anionic nature of Nation exerted a certain diffusion barrier to nitrite, as revealed by the unusually elevated limits of the linear dynamic range and k(m)(app). The irregularity of the composite membrane also contributed to slow down the rate of charge transfer throughout the Nafion polymer. The level of viologens incorporated within the Nation membrane had a strong influence in the analytical parameters: as much mediator was present, lower was the sensitivity and wider was the linear range. For an optimized ratio enzyme/mediator the sensitivity was 445 +/- 8 mA M-1 cm(-2), within the linear range 75-800 mu M; the lowest detected nitrite concentration was 60 mu M. The operational stability of the biosensor and the influence of some possible interferences were evaluated. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.