The cDNA for Gaussia luciferase (GLuc), the enzyme responsible for the bioluminescent reaction of the marine copepod Gaussia princeps, has been cloned recently. GLuc (MW = 19 900) catalyzes the oxidative decarboxylation of coelenterazine to produce coelenteramide and light. We report the first quantitative anaytical study of GLuc and examine its potential as a new reporter for DNA hybridization. A plasmid encoding both a biotin acceptor peptide-GLuc fusion protein as well as the enzyme biotin protein ligase (BPL) is engineered by using GLuc cDNA as a starting template. BPL catalyzes the covalent attachment of a single biotin to the fusion protein in vivo. Purification of GLuc is then accomplished by affinity chromatography using immobilized monomeric avidin. Moreover, the in vivo biotinylation enables subsequent complexation of GLuc with streptavidin (SA), thereby avoiding chemical conjugation reactions that are known to inactivate luciferases. Purified GLuc can be detected down to 1 amol with a signal-to-background ratio of 2 and a linear range extending over 5 orders of magnitude. The background luminescence of coelenterazine is the main limiting factor for even higher detectability of GLuc. Furthermore, the GLuc-SA complex is used as a detection reagent in a microtiter well-based DNA hybridization assay. The analytical range extends from 1.6 to 800 pmol/L of target DNA. Biotinylated GLuc produced from 1 L of bacterial culture is sufficient for 150,000 hybridization assays.