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Living lights: new biotech tools powered by glowing organisms

Bioluminescence is a chemical process involving the emission of cold visible light by living organisms and is found in a wide range of marine organisms. Bioluminescent reactions are based on the oxidation of a small organic molecule (generically called luciferin) in the presence of an enzyme (generically called luciferase).  As the phenomenon has evolved independently within multiple phyla, there is a large variation in the types of luciferases and luciferins that occur within organisms. In fact, bioluminescence is an extremely interesting and important biological process, since it constitutes an elegant model for the most diverse multidisciplinary investigations, such as: (1) mechanistic studies of conversion of chemical energy in biological systems; (2) structure and function of proteins; (3) enzymatic evolution and biological systems; (4) ecology and (5) cellular processes at the molecular level.

Chaetopterus sp. displaying bioluminescence