Guided by the light: visualizing biomolecular processes in living animals with bioluminescence

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2010 Feb;14(1):80-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2009.11.001. Epub 2009 Dec 3.


Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) exploits the light-emitting properties of luciferase enzymes for monitoring cells and biomolecular processes in living subjects. Luciferases can be incorporated into a variety of non-luminescent hosts and used to track cells, visualize gene expression, and analyze collections of biomolecules. This article highlights recent applications of BLI to studies of mammalian biology, along with the development of novel bioluminescent probes to 'see' cells and molecules in action. Collectively, these efforts are expanding our understanding of living systems and shedding light on the molecular underpinnings of disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells / chemistry
  • Cells / metabolism
  • Luciferases / chemistry
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Luminescence*
  • Luminescent Measurements / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*


  • Luciferases