Monday, July 22, 2013

Did you know: Scientists believe they have discovered a missing link in the evolution of bioluminescence

Bioluminescence originated 400 million years ago in jellyfish and has become a cornerstone in the world of medical research. As an example the BMG LABTECH website has over 150 citations, posters and application notes that deal with bioluminescence. The critical enzyme in creating bioluminescence is luciferase and a recent report in the journal Biochemistry describes the discovery of a luciferase-like enzyme that they believe illuminates how luciferase is able to cause luminescence.

An example of a bioluminescent ctenophore
The article entitled: 'A Route from Darkness to Light: Emergence and Evolution of Luciferase Activity in AMP-CoA-Ligases Inferred from a Mealworm Luciferase-like Enzyme' describes not only the characterization of the luciferase-like enzyme but also how they were able to manipulate the enzyme to become more like luciferase. They were able to create mutations that changed individual amino acids in the enzyme leading to increased luciferase activity and when they created a fusion protein they were able make a totally new orange-emitting luciferase.

The understanding gained from this study could allow scientists to develop brighter luciferases that shine in a variety of colors.