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Biology Articles » Biotechnology » Blue Biotechnology » How do marine bacteria produce light, why are they luminescent, and can we employ bacterial bioluminescence in aquatic biotechnology? » Biochemical mechanism of bacterial bioluminescence

Biochemical mechanism of bacterial bioluminescence
- How do marine bacteria produce light, why are they luminescent, and can we employ bacterial bioluminescence in aquatic biotechnology?

2. Biochemical mechanism of bacterial bioluminescence

The reaction of bacterial luminescence is catalyzed by luciferase, an enzyme composed of two subunits, called α and β (Belas et al. 1982). The luciferase substrates are long-chain aldehydes and FMNH2. The reaction leads to the oxidation of FMNH2 to FMN and the oxidation of the aldehydes to organic (fatty) acids. A quantum of light is an additional product of this reaction, which can be summarized as follows:

RCHO + FMNH2 + O2 → RCOOH + FMN+H2O +

The fatty acids produced in the reaction catalyzed by luciferase are subsequently reduced to aldehydes by a specific reductase. In the same reaction, NADPH + H+ is converted to NADP+ and ATP is hydrolyzed to ADP (Ziegler & Baldwin 1981). FMNH2, which is necessary for the luminescence reaction (see above), is generated from FMN by NAD(P)H–FMN oxidoreductase (Jabłoński & DeLuca 1978).

As can be deduced from the above description, bioluminescence is an energy-consuming reaction. In fact, for light emission bacteria may use up to 20% of the total cellular energy (Nealson & Hastings 1979, Bassler & Silverman 1995).


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