Indexed on: 23 Jun '06Published on: 23 Jun '06Published in: Luminescence
Luciferyl adenylate, the key intermediate in beetle bioluminescence, is produced through adenylation of d-luciferin by beetle luciferases and also by mealworm luciferase-like enzymes which produce a weak red chemiluminescence. However, luciferyl adenylate is only weakly chemiluminescent in water at physiological pH and it is unclear how efficient bioluminescence evolved from its weak chemiluminescent properties. We found that bovine serum albumin (BSA) and neutral detergents enhance luciferyl adenylate chemiluminescence by three orders of magnitude, simulating the mealworm luciferase-like enzyme chemiluminescence properties. These results suggest that the beetle protoluciferase activity arose as an enhanced luciferyl adenylate chemiluminescence in the protein environment of the ancestral AMP-ligase. The predominance of luciferyl adenylate chemiluminescence in the red region under most conditions suggests that red luminescence is a more primitive condition that characterized the original stages of protobioluminescence, whereas yellow-green bioluminescence may have evolved later through the development of a more structured and hydrophobic active site.