An Optimized Active Sampling Procedure for Aerobiological DNA Studies

Basapathi Raghavendra J, Mathanlal T, Zorzano M-P, Martin-Torres J. An Optimized Active Sampling Procedure for Aerobiological DNA Studies. Sensors. 2023; 23(5):2836.

The Earth’s atmosphere plays a critical role in transporting and dispersing biological aerosols. Nevertheless, the amount of microbial biomass in suspension in the air is so low that it is extremely difficult to monitor the changes over time in these communities. Real-time genomic studies can provide a sensitive and rapid method for monitoring changes in the composition of bioaerosols. However, the low abundance of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) and proteins in the atmosphere, which is of the order of the contamination produced by operators and instruments, poses a challenge for the sampling process and the analyte extraction. In this study, we designed an optimized, portable, closed bioaerosol sampler based on membrane filters using commercial off-the-shelf components, demonstrating its end-to-end operation. This sampler can operate autonomously outdoors for a prolonged time, capturing ambient bioaerosols and avoiding user contamination. We first performed a comparative analysis in a controlled environment to select the optimal active membrane filter based on its ability to capture and extract DNA. We have designed a bioaerosol chamber for this purpose and tested three commercial DNA extraction kits. The bioaerosol sampler was tested outdoors in a representative environment and run for 24 h at 150 L/min. Our methodology suggests that a 0.22-µm polyether sulfone (PES) membrane filter can recover up to 4 ng of DNA in this period, sufficient for genomic applications. This system, along with the robust extraction protocol, can be automated for continuous environmental monitoring to gain insights into the time evolution of microbial communities within the air.

Keywords: bioaerosols; air-filtration; active sampling; commercial off-the shelf (COTS); DNA extraction

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