Mechanism and color modulation of fungal bioluminescence

Sci Adv. 2017 Apr 26;3(4):e1602847. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1602847. eCollection 2017 Apr.


Bioluminescent fungi are spread throughout the globe, but details on their mechanism of light emission are still scarce. Usually, the process involves three key components: an oxidizable luciferin substrate, a luciferase enzyme, and a light emitter, typically oxidized luciferin, and called oxyluciferin. We report the structure of fungal oxyluciferin, investigate the mechanism of fungal bioluminescence, and describe the use of simple synthetic α-pyrones as luciferins to produce multicolor enzymatic chemiluminescence. A high-energy endoperoxide is proposed as an intermediate of the oxidation of the native luciferin to the oxyluciferin, which is a pyruvic acid adduct of caffeic acid. Luciferase promiscuity allows the use of simple α-pyrones as chemiluminescent substrates.

Keywords: CIEEL; Neonothopanus; alpha-pyrone; chemiluminescence; endoperoxide; enzyme promiscuity; hispidin; luciferase; luciferin; photochemistry.

MeSH terms

  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Fungi / chemistry*
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Indoles / chemistry*
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Luciferases / chemistry*
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Luminescence*
  • Pyrazines / chemistry*
  • Pyrazines / metabolism
  • Pyrones / chemistry


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Indoles
  • Pyrazines
  • Pyrones
  • oxyluciferin
  • Luciferases