Plants with genetically encoded autoluminescence

Nat Biotechnol. 2020 Aug;38(8):944-946. doi: 10.1038/s41587-020-0500-9. Epub 2020 Apr 27.


Autoluminescent plants engineered to express a bacterial bioluminescence gene cluster in plastids have not been widely adopted because of low light output. We engineered tobacco plants with a fungal bioluminescence system that converts caffeic acid (present in all plants) into luciferin and report self-sustained luminescence that is visible to the naked eye. Our findings could underpin development of a suite of imaging tools for plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caffeic Acids / metabolism
  • Firefly Luciferin / metabolism*
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Tobacco / genetics*


  • Caffeic Acids
  • Firefly Luciferin
  • caffeic acid

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.11353601