Label-free phenotypic profiling identified D-luciferin as a GPR35 agonist

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34934. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034934. Epub 2012 Apr 12.


Fluorescent and luminescent probes are essential to both in vitro molecular assays and in vivo imaging techniques, and have been extensively used to measure biological function. However, little is known about the biological activity, thus potential interferences with the assay results, of these probe molecules. Here we show that D-luciferin, one of the most widely used bioluminescence substrates, is a partial agonist for G protein-coupled receptor-35 (GPR35). Label-free phenotypic profiling using dynamic mass redistribution (DMR) assays showed that D-luciferin led to a DMR signal in native HT-29 cells, whose characteristics are similar to those induced by known GPR35 agonists including zaprinast and pamoic acid. DMR assays further showed that D-luciferin is a partial agonist competitive to several known GPR35 agonists and antagonists. D-luciferin was found to cause the phosphorylation of ERK that was suppressed by known GPR35 antagonists, and also result in β-arrestin translocation signal but with low efficacy. These results not only suggest that D-luciferin is a partial agonist of GPR35, but also will evoke careful interpretation of biological data obtained using molecular and in vivo imaging assays when these probe molecules are used.

MeSH terms

  • Benzothiazoles / chemistry
  • Benzothiazoles / pharmacology*
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / agonists*


  • Benzothiazoles
  • D-luciferin
  • GPR35 protein, human
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases