!! This is the archived website of Professor Andrew J. Millar's research group at the University of Edinburgh (to 2017) !!

Current work is linked from here: http://www.amillar.org

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Luciferase

Seedlings
Luciferases are enzymes that emit light. A diverse group of organisms use luciferase-mediated bioluminescence to startle predators or to attract prey or mates. The luciferase from the North American firefly releases green light during the oxidation of its chemical substrate, luciferin. Other organisms, including plants, that express the luciferase (LUC) gene will also glow faintly green when supplied with luciferin.

The glow is widely used as an assay for LUC expression, which acts as a "reporter" for the activity of any genetic regulation that controls the expression of its gene. Luciferase is particularly useful as a reporter in living cells and organisms. LUC gene fusions provide a "window" on to the mechanisms that regulate the activity of specific genes, in specific, living cells. Our interest is in the mechanism of rhythmic regulation in higher plants: a rhythmically-expressed luciferase reporter has been one of our principal tools since 1990 (published in Millar et al. Plant Mol Biol Rep 1992 (Arabidopsis); Millar et al. Plant Cell 1992 (tobacco)).

Images of bioluminescence from our CAB:LUC Arabidopsis plants are shown at the top of this page (the cotyledons of two seedlings) and on the front page (an older, rosette plant).

Several different luciferase genes are now available from commercial suppliers. We most commonly use the LUC+ gene from Promega Corporation. The protein is cytoplasmic, whereas the native LUC is peroxisomal.

Luciferase Links

bulletWikipedia entry on luciferase and bioluminescence
bulletAmerican Society for Photobiology has good teaching materials and images in their Bioluminescence section.
bullet Basic animation explains how reporter genes work, using luciferase as an example.
bullet Firelies are beetles, (some) 'glow-worms' are their larvae.
bulletThere are several reviews on using luciferase in plants, for example:
bullet"The Use of the Luciferase Reporter System for in Planta Gene Expression Studies" Plant Mol. Biol. Reporter vol. 18(2), 143 (2000). Wessel Van Leeuwen, Marc J.M. Hagendoorn, Tom Ruttink, Remco Van Poecke, Linus H.W. Van Der Plas and Alexander R. Van Der Krol. Link PDF
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