1001 lights: luciferins, luciferases, their mechanisms of action and applications in chemical analysis, biology and medicine
Bioluminescence (BL) is a spectacular phenomenon involving light emission by live organisms. It is caused by the oxidation of a small organic molecule, luciferin, with molecular oxygen, which is catalysed by the enzyme luciferase. In nature, there are approximately 30 different BL systems, of which only 9 have been studied to various degrees in terms of their reaction mechanisms. A vast range of in vitro and in vivo analytical techniques have been developed based on BL, including tests for different analytes, immunoassays, gene expression assays, drug screening, bioimaging of live organisms, cancer studies, the investigation of infectious diseases and environmental monitoring. This review aims to cover the major existing applications for bioluminescence in the context of the diversity of luciferases and their substrates, luciferins. Particularly, the properties and applications of D-luciferin, coelenterazine, bacterial, Cypridina and dinoflagellate luciferins and their analogues along with their corresponding luciferases are described. Finally, four other rarely studied bioluminescent systems (those of limpet Latia, earthworms Diplocardia and Fridericia and higher fungi), which are promising for future use, are also discussed.