'New' luminescent proteins with biomedical utility created by combining natural and synthetic types
To survive its first few days of life, the P. hirtus railroad worm must switch on natural lights. In tiny spots along its back an enzyme called luciferase sets to work on a chemical called luciferin, producing bright yellow-green luminescence to scare predators. But that’s not all – the worm carries a different form of luciferase which produces red 'head lights', helping the worm to see in the dark. Finding differences in the molecular structures producing these different colours, researchers seized an opportunity – combining natural luciferases with artificially altered luciferin molecules, produces a bright red light in the lab. Shining at the far-red end of the visible spectrum, this 'new' colour can be adapted to shine inside human cells – in tissues where yellow-green luminescence is too readily absorbed and lost – potentially revealing details about our circulatory system and muscles.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.