Bioluminescence: a versatile technique for imaging cellular and molecular features
Bioluminescence is a ubiquitous imaging modality for visualizing biological processes in vivo. This technique employs visible light and interfaces readily with most cell and tissue types, making it a versatile technology for preclinical studies. Here we review basic bioluminescence imaging principles, along with applications of the technology that are relevant to the medicinal chemistry community. These include noninvasive cell tracking experiments, analyses of protein function, and methods to visualize small molecule metabolites. In each section, we also discuss how bioluminescent tools have revealed insights into experimental therapies and aided drug discovery. Last, we highlight the development of new bioluminescent tools that will enable more sensitive and multi-component imaging experiments and, thus, expand our broader understanding of living systems.