Researchers show how railroad worms produce red light

phys.org | 11/2/2018 | Staff
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A research group comprising Brazilian and Japanese scientists has discovered how luciferase produced by the railroad worm Phrixothrix hirtus emits red light. Luciferase is an enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin in fireflies, producing oxyluciferin and enabling fireflies to emit light. Differences in the molecular structures explain the different colors of this bioluminescence in different species.

This discovery has the potential for new biotechnological applications, such as the imaging of muscles, blood and hemoglobin-rich tissue.

Article - Scientific - Reports - Study - Researchers

An article published in Scientific Reports describes the study, which was conducted by researchers at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) in São Paulo State, the National Bioscience Laboratory (LNBio) attached to Brazil's National Energy and Materials Research Center (CNPEM), and the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, Japan.

The Brazilian team used cloned railroad worm luciferase, which naturally emits red light and mutants of the enzyme together with a larger analog of luciferin synthesized by the Japanese team.

Combination - Luciferase - Luciferin - Analog - Size

"This novel combination of luciferase with a luciferin analog not only revealed the larger size of the cavity in the luciferase but also produced far-red light more efficiently and is ideal for biomedical applications involving imaging of cells and tissues that preferably absorb blue-green light, such as mammalian cells," Vadim Viviani, a professor at UFSCar (Sorocaba campus) and principal investigator for the study, said.

In a previous study, the group led by Viviani showed that luciferase from fireflies, which are close relatives of railroad worms, changed the color of the light they emitted from green to red in a test tube in response to a change in the acidity of the medium or the presence of heavy metals.

Group - Light - Railroad - Worm - Luciferase

The group did not yet know how red light was produced naturally by railroad worm luciferase, however, and has now shown how the phenomenon occurs in this species of beetle. Vanessa Rezende Bevilaqua,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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