Quantitative and Functional Requirements for Bioluminescent Cancer Models

In Vivo. 2016 Jan-Feb;30(1):1-11.


Background: Bioluminescent cancer models are widely used but detailed quantification of the luciferase signal and functional comparison with a non-transfected control cell line are generally lacking. In the present study, we provide quantitative and functional tests for luciferase-transfected cells.

Materials and methods: We quantified the luciferase expression in BLM and HCT8/E11 transfected cancer cells, and examined the effect of long-term luciferin exposure. The present study also investigated functional differences between parental and transfected cancer cells.

Results: Our results showed that quantification of different single-cell-derived populations are superior with droplet digital polymerase chain reaction. Quantification of luciferase protein level and luciferase bioluminescent activity is only useful when there is a significant difference in copy number. Continuous exposure of cell cultures to luciferin leads to inhibitory effects on mitochondrial activity, cell growth and bioluminescence. These inhibitory effects correlate with luciferase copy number. Cell culture and mouse xenograft assays showed no significant functional differences between luciferase-transfected and parental cells.

Conclusion: Luciferase-transfected cells should be validated by quantitative and functional assays before starting large-scale experiments.

Keywords: BLM; Bioluminescence; cancer model; in vivo imaging; mouse xenograft.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Luciferases / metabolism*
  • Luminescent Measurements / methods
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Transfection / methods


  • Luciferases