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Concept: Sea pansy


A library of 367 protein kinase inhibitors, the GSK Published Kinase Inhibitor Set (PKIS), which has been annotated for protein kinase family activity and is available for public screening efforts, was assayed against the commonly used luciferase reporter enzymes from the firefly, Photinus pyralis (FLuc) and marine sea pansy, Renilla reniformis (RLuc). A total of 22 compounds (∼6% of the library) were found to inhibit FLuc with 10 compounds showing potencies ≤1 µM. Only two compounds were found to inhibit RLuc, and these showed relatively weak potency values (∼10 µM). An inhibitor series of the VEGFR2/TIE2 protein kinase family containing either an aryl oxazole or benzimidazole-urea core illustrate the different structure activity relationship profiles FLuc inhibitors can display for kinase inhibitor chemotypes. Several FLuc inhibitors were broadly active toward the tyrosine kinase and CDK families. These data should aid in interpreting the results derived from screens employing the GSK PKIS in cell-based assays using the FLuc reporter. The study also underscores the general need for strategies such as the use of orthogonal reporters to identify kinase or non-kinase mediated cellular responses.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Enzyme, Protein kinase, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor, Protein kinase inhibitor, Luciferase, Sea pansy


Split reporter proteins capable of self-association and reactivation have applications in biomedical research, but designing these proteins, especially the selection of appropriate split points, has been somewhat arbitrary. We describe a new methodology to facilitate generating split proteins using split GFP as a self-association module. We first inserted the entire GFP module at one of several candidate split points in the protein of interest, and chose clones that retained the GFP signal and high activity relative to the original protein. Once such chimeric clones were identified, a final pair of split proteins was generated by splitting the GFP-inserted chimera within the GFP domain. Applying this strategy to Renilla reniformis luciferase, we identified a new split point that gave 10 times more activity than the previous split point. The process of membrane fusion was monitored with high sensitivity using a new pair of split reporter proteins. We also successfully identified new split points for HaloTag protein and firefly luciferase, generating pairs of self-associating split proteins that recovered the functions of both GFP and the original protein. This simple method of screening will facilitate the designing of split proteins that are capable of self-association through the split GFP domains.

Concepts: Protein, Enzyme, Virus, Green fluorescent protein, Membrane protein, Firefly, Luciferase, Sea pansy


Bioluminescence relies on the oxidation of a luciferin substrate catalysed by a luciferase enzyme. Luciferins and luciferases are generic terms used to describe a large variety of substrates and enzymes. Whereas luciferins can be shared by phylogenetically distant organisms which feed on organisms producing them, luciferases have been thought to be lineage-specific enzymes. Numerous light emission systems would then have co-emerged independently along the tree of life resulting in a plethora of non-homologous luciferases. Here, we identify for the first time a candidate luciferase of a luminous echinoderm, the ophiuroid Amphiura filiformis Phylogenomic analyses identified the brittle star predicted luciferase as homologous to the luciferase of the sea pansy Renilla (Cnidaria), contradicting with the traditional viewpoint according to which luciferases would generally be of convergent origins. The similarity between the Renilla and Amphiura luciferases allowed us to detect the latter using anti-Renilla luciferase antibodies. Luciferase expression was specifically localized in the spines which were demonstrated to be the bioluminescent organs in vivo However, enzymes homologous to the Renilla luciferase but unable to trigger light emission were also identified in non-luminous echinoderms and metazoans. Our findings strongly indicate that those enzymes, belonging to the haloalkane dehalogenase family, might then have been convergently co-opted into luciferases in cnidarians and echinoderms. In these two benthic suspension-feeding species, similar ecological pressures would constitute strong selective forces for the functional shift of these enzymes and the emergence of bioluminescence.

Concepts: Enzyme, Light, Animal, Bioluminescence, Luciferase, Luciferin, Sea pansy, Sea pen


Down-regulation or silencing of transgene expression can be a major hurdle to both molecular studies and biotechnology applications in many plant species. Sugarcane is particularly effective at silencing introduced transgenes, including reporter genes such as the firefly luciferase gene.Synthesizing transgene coding sequences optimized for usage in the host plant is one method of enhancing transgene expression and stability. Using specified design rules we have synthesised new coding sequences for both the firefly luciferase and Renilla luciferase reporter genes. We have tested these optimized versions for enhanced levels of luciferase activity and for increased steady state luciferase mRNA levels in sugarcane.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Firefly, Luciferase, Sea pansy


Novel engineered NanoLuc® (Nluc) luciferase being smaller, brighter, and superior to traditional firefly (Fluc) or Renilla (Rluc) provides a great opportunity for the development of numerous biological, biomedical, clinical, and food and environmental safety applications. This new platform created an urgent need for Nluc inhibitors that could allow selective bioluminescent suppression and multiplexing compatibility with existing luminescence or fluorescence assays. Starting from thienopyrrole carboxylate 1, a hit from a 42k PubChem compound library with low μM IC50 against Nluc, we derivatized four different structural fragments to discover a family of potent, single digit nM, cell permeable inhibitors. Further elaboration revealed a channel that allowed access to the external Nluc surface, resulting in a series of highly potent cell impermeable Nluc inhibitors with negatively charged groups likely extending to the protein surface. The permeability was evaluated by comparing EC50 shifts calculated from both live and lysed cells expressing Nluc cytosolically. Luminescence imaging further confirmed that cell permeable compounds inhibit both intracellular and extracellular Nluc, whereas less permeable compounds differentially inhibit extracellular Nluc and Nluc on the cell surface. The compounds displayed little to no toxicity to cells and high luciferase specificity, showing no activity against firefly luciferase or even the closely related NanoBit® system. Looking forward, the structural motifs used to gain access to the Nluc surface can also be appended with other functional groups and therefore interesting opportunities for developing assays based on relief-of-inhibition can be envisioned.

Concepts: Protein, Enzyme, Cell membrane, Quorum sensing, Firefly, Bioluminescence, Luciferase, Sea pansy


The ratio between osteoprotegerin (OPG) and the receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL) in the bone microenvironment indicates the level of osteoclastogenesis, and upregulation of this ratio would improve osteoporosis. In this study, we established a novel high-throughput screening (HTS) system using two stably transfected monoclonal cell lines that either express firefly luciferase under the OPG promoter control or concurrently express firefly and renilla luciferases under control of the OPG and RANKL promoters, respectively. With this system, we can conveniently and rapidly detect the effects of compounds on the expression of OPG and RANKL through changes in firefly and renilla luciferase activities. A total of 8160 compounds were screened using this system, yielding five compounds without previously reported activity. The compound with greatest potential is E05657 with high activity and low effective concentration in the HTS system. It increases the OPG/RANKL ratio and OPG secretion, decreases the NFATc1 expression, and reduces osteoclastogenesis in vitro. These results indicate that this novel HTS system can be used to identify small molecules with potential antiosteoporosis effects, and E05657 is a promising lead compound as a novel antiosteoporosis drug.

Concepts: Cell, Enzyme, Transcription factor, Drug discovery, Firefly, High-throughput screening, Luciferase, Sea pansy


Bioluminescence imaging is widely used for cell-based assays and animal imaging studies, both in biomedical research and drug development. Its main advantages include its high-throughput applicability, affordability, high sensitivity, operational simplicity, and quantitative outputs. In malaria research, bioluminescence has been used for drug discovery in vivo and in vitro, exploring host-pathogen interactions, and studying multiple aspects of Plasmodium biology. While the number of fluorescent proteins available for imaging has undergone a great expansion over the last two decades, enabling simultaneous visualization of multiple molecular and cellular events, expansion of available luciferases has lagged behind. The most widely used bioluminescent probe in malaria research is the Photinus pyralis firefly luciferase, followed by the more recently introduced Click-beetle and Renilla luciferases. Ultra-sensitive imaging of Plasmodium at low parasite densities has not been previously achieved. With the purpose of overcoming these challenges, a Plasmodium berghei line expressing the novel ultra-bright luciferase enzyme NanoLuc, called PbNLuc has been generated, and is presented in this work.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Enzyme, Quorum sensing, Firefly, Bioluminescence, Luciferase, Sea pansy, Omphalotus olearius


A novel synthetic method for v-coelenterazine (v-CTZ), which is a vinylene-bridged analog of native CTZ with a large red-shifted luminescence property, is described. The synthesis was achieved in a concise way through the use of three sequential cross-coupling reactions and ring-closing metathesis (RCM). A newly synthesized C2-modified trifluoromethyl analog cf3-v-CTZ showed slightly more red-shifted luminescence than v-CTZ when it was used as a substrate for Renilla luciferases.

Concepts: Chemical reaction, Chemical synthesis, Synthesis, Luciferase, Sea pansy


Bioanalytical systems based on the Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) are widely used in fundamental biochemical studies, as well as for screening and analysis of biologically active compounds. The Renilla luciferase is the most often used energy donor in this system despite the fact that it has low bioluminescence quantum yield and demonstrates not so stable luminescence in time as the firefly luciferase. Moreover, the bioluminescence λmax is observed in the green region of the spectrum, which complicates signal recording in tissues during in vivo experiments. The firefly luciferases do not have such drawbacks and show great promise for applications in BRET systems. Different versions of BRET systems based on firefly luciferases and the methods for increasing their efficiency are considered in this review; examples of the use of BRET systems based on the firefly luciferases for highly sensitive determination of proteases and for homogeneous immunoassays are presented.

Concepts: Enzyme, Quorum sensing, Firefly, Bioluminescence, Luciferase, Sea pansy, Omphalotus olearius


A novel and advanced Fc-binding probe - FcUni-RLuc namely - has been produced and functionally assayed for labelling IgGs. The Fc antibody binding sequence - HWRGWV - was fused to Renilla luciferase, and the purified probe was employed for bioluminescence enzyme-linked immunoabsorbance assay of Her2 positive cells.

Concepts: Antibody, Bacteria, Light, Assay, Firefly, Bioluminescence, Luciferase, Sea pansy