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.