Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 387–404 | Cite as

Firefly luciferase: an adenylate-forming enzyme for multicatalytic functions



Firefly luciferase is a member of the acyl-adenylate/thioester-forming superfamily of enzymes and catalyzes the oxidation of firefly luciferin with molecular oxygen to emit light. Knowledge of the luminescence mechanism catalyzed by firefly luciferase has been gathered, leading to the discovery of a novel catalytic function of luciferase. Recently, we demonstrated that firefly luciferase has a catalytic function of fatty acyl-CoA synthesis from fatty acids in the presence of ATP, Mg2+ and coenzyme A. Based on identification of fatty acyl-CoA genes in firefly, Drosophila, and non-luminous click beetles, we then proposed that the evolutionary origin of firefly luciferase is a fatty acyl-CoA synthetase in insects. Further, we succeeded in converting the fatty acyl-CoA synthetase of non-luminous insects into functional luciferase showing luminescence activity by site-directed mutagenesis.


Bioluminescence Luciferin analogue Inhibitors Fatty acyl-CoA synthetase Molecular evolution 



The author is grateful to Dr. A. Nakagawa (Osaka University, Japan) for illustrating the X-ray structure model of firefly luciferase. Also, the author thanks Dr. T. Hosoya (Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan) for discussion about luminescence mechanisms.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel/Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yokohama Research Center, Chisso CorporationYokohamaJapan

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