Advances in in vivo bioluminescence imaging of gene expression

Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2002;4:235-60. doi: 10.1146/annurev.bioeng.4.111901.093336. Epub 2002 Mar 22.


To advance our understanding of biological processes as they occur in living animals, imaging strategies have been developed and refined that reveal cellular and molecular features of biology and disease in real time. One rapid and accessible technology for in vivo analysis employs internal biological sources of light emitted from luminescent enzymes, luciferases, to label genes and cells. Combining this reporter system with the new generation of charge coupled device (CCD) cameras that detect the light transmitted through the animal's tissues has opened the door to sensitive in vivo measurements of mammalian gene expression in living animals. Here, we review the development and application of this imaging strategy, in vivo bioluminescence imaging (BLI), together with in vivo fluorescence imaging methods, which has enabled the real-time study of immune cell trafficking, of various genetic regulatory elements in transgenic mice, and of in vivo gene transfer. BLI has been combined with fluorescence methods that together offer access to in vivo measurements that were not previously available. Such studies will greatly facilitate the functional analysis of a wide range of genes for their roles in health and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artificial Gene Fusion / methods
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Profiling / instrumentation*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / trends
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Reporter / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Humans
  • Luciferases / chemistry
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic / genetics
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods
  • Video Recording / instrumentation
  • Video Recording / methods*
  • Video Recording / trends


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luciferases