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Giving Luciferase the Green Light

Luciferases catalyze bioluminescence reactions in insects such as glow-worms and fireflies – and have been adopted as useful tools by the bioanalytical community. Different species emit a range of colors from green to red – but “the structural determinants and mechanisms of bioluminescence colors and pH sensitivity remain enigmatic,” say researchers from the Federal University of Sao Paolo (1). Using site-directed mutagenesis of luciferase in three families of bioluminescent beetle, the team was able to dig deeper into the role of two amino acids in the catalytic process.

Credit: Robert Sisson/National Geographic Creative

1. V Viviani et al, “Glu311 and Arg337 Stabilize a Closed Active-site Conformation and Provide a Critical Catalytic Base and Countercation for Green Bioluminescence in Beetle Luciferases”, Biochem, 55, 4764-4776 (2016).

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About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. "Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment." On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. "I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication." Rich is now also Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist.

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