Color-tuning mechanism of firefly investigated by multi-configurational perturbation method

J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Jan 20;132(2):706-12. doi: 10.1021/ja908051h.


This is the first report on a multiconfigurational reference second-order perturbation theory-molecular mechanics study of the color modulation of the observed bioluminescence of the oxyluciferin-luciferase complex of the Japanese genji-botaru firefly using structures according to recent X-ray data. Our theoretical results do not support the experimentally deduced conclusion that the color modulation of the emitted light primarily depends on the size of the compact luciferase protein cavity embedding the excited oxyluciferin molecule. Rather, we find, in agreement with recent experimental observations, that the wavelength of the emitted light depends on the polarity of the microenvironment at the phenol/phenolate terminal of the benzothiazole fragment in oxyluciferin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Fireflies
  • Indoles / chemistry*
  • Japan
  • Light
  • Luciferases / chemistry*
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Luminescence
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Pyrazines / chemistry*
  • Quantum Theory*


  • Indoles
  • Pyrazines
  • oxyluciferin
  • Luciferases