Introduction to beetle luciferases and their applications

J Biolumin Chemilumin. 1989 Jul;4(1):289-301. doi: 10.1002/bio.1170040141.


All beetle luciferases have evolved from a common ancestor: they all use ATP, O2, and a common luciferin as substrates. The most studied of these luciferases is that derived from the firefly Photinus pyralis, a beetle in the superfamily of Cantharoidea. The sensitivity with which the activity of this enzyme can be assayed has made it useful in the measurement of minute concentrations of ATP. With the cloning of the cDNA coding this luciferase, it has also found wide application in molecular biology as a reporter gene. We have recently cloned other cDNAs that code for luciferases from the bioluminescent click beetle, Pyrophorus plagiophthalamus, in the superfamily Elateroidea. These newly acquired luciferases are of at least four different types, distinguishable by their ability to emit different colours of bioluminescence ranging from green to orange. Unique properties of these luciferases, especially their emission of multiple colours, may make them additionally useful in applications.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Coleoptera / enzymology*
  • Coleoptera / genetics
  • DNA / genetics
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Luciferases / metabolism*
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA
  • Luciferases