Substrate cooperativity in marine luciferases

PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e40099. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040099. Epub 2012 Jun 29.


Marine luciferases are increasingly used as reporters to study gene regulation. These luciferases have utility in bioluminescent assay development, although little has been reported on their catalytic properties in response to substrate concentration. Here, we report that the two marine luciferases from the copepods, Gaussia princeps (GLuc) and Metridia longa (MLuc) were found, surprisingly, to produce light in a cooperative manner with respect to their luciferin substrate concentration; as the substrate concentration was decreased 10 fold the rate of light production decreased 1000 fold. This positive cooperative effect is likely a result of allostery between the two proposed catalytic domains found in Gaussia and Metridia. In contrast, the marine luciferases from Renilla reniformis (RLuc) and Cypridina noctiluca (CLuc) demonstrate a linear relationship between the concentration of their respective luciferin and the rate of light produced. The consequences of these enzyme responses are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / drug effects
  • Aquatic Organisms / enzymology*
  • Benzothiazoles / chemistry
  • Benzothiazoles / pharmacology
  • Copepoda / enzymology
  • Imidazoles / chemistry
  • Luciferases / chemistry
  • Luciferases / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pyrazines / chemistry
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Substrate Specificity / drug effects


  • Benzothiazoles
  • Imidazoles
  • Pyrazines
  • coelenterazine
  • Luciferases