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Metabolomics. 2014 Jun 1;10(3):354-360.

Luciferase does not Alter Metabolism in Cancer Cells.

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Scripps Center for Metabolomics and Mass Spectrometry, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, La Jolla Laboratories 10724 Science Center Drive, San Diego, CA, USA.
Departments of Molecular and Experimental Medicine and Chemical Physiology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.


Luciferase transfected cell lines are used extensively for cancer models, revealing valuable biological information about disease mechanisms. However, these genetically encoded reporters, while useful for monitoring tumor response in cancer models, can impact cell metabolism. Indeed firefly luciferase and fatty acyl-CoA synthetases differ by a single amino acid, raising the possibility that luciferase activity might alter metabolism and introduce experimental artifacts. Therefore knowledge of the metabolic response to luciferase transfection is of significant importance, especially given the thousands of research studies using luciferase as an in vivo bioluminescence imaging (BLI) reporter. Untargeted metabolomics experiments were performed to examine three different types of lymphoblastic leukemia cell lines (Ramos, Raji and SUP T1) commonly used in cancer research, each were analyzed with and without vector transduction. The Raji model was also tested under perturbed starvation conditions to examine potential luciferase-mediated stress responses. The results showed that no significant metabolic differences were observed between parental and luciferase transduced cells for each cell line, and that luciferase overexpression does not alter cell metabolism under basal or perturbed conditions.


Luciferase; bioluminescence imaging; metabolomics; reporter gene

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