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Luminescence. 2004 Jan-Feb;19(1):8-20.

Evolution of beetle bioluminescence: the origin of beetle luciferin.

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1
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)-Oxford, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3SR, UK. jcda@ceh.ac.uk

Abstract

Bioluminescence, the conversion of chemical energy into light in living organisms, is dependent on two principal components, an enzyme luciferase and the substrate luciferin. In beetles, the enzyme luciferase has been extensively studied, with significant enzymological, sequence and structural data now available. Furthermore, the enzyme has been employed in a remarkable number of important applications, from microbial detection and medical imaging to GM gene expression studies. However, there is little information regarding the biosynthesis of beetle luciferin, and here we review the literature and speculate as to its evolutionary origins. Luciferin consists of a benzothiazole moiety attached to a thiazole carboxylic acid moiety, the former being rarely observed in nature but the latter being observed in a broad range of biologically derived molecules. Benzothiazoles are, however, observed in melanogenesis and we speculate as to whether this may be relevant to the understanding of luciferin biosynthesis in beetles. This review examines recent novel insights into beetle luciferin recycling and we assess a range of possible biosynthetic mechanisms.

PMID:
14981641
DOI:
10.1002/bio.749
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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