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Swati tyagi, M.Sc microbiology(Prev.) k.u.k

This process is called Most of these bacteria are classified in the genus Photobacterium But a few Vibrio isolated are also biolumeniscent e.g.- Vibrio fischeri, Photobacterium leiognathi, Photobacterium phosphoreum

Vibrio fischeri

Photobacterium phosphoreum FMNH2 + O2 + RCHO ----- FMN + H2O + RCOOH+light

They are gram negative, straight or curved rod shaped bacteria. Cell dimension- 0.3-1.3 m Oxidase positive Can use D-glucose as sole or principle carbon source. Sometime they remain in symbiotic relationship or in free form . most of time they are nonpathogenic.

Mostly biolumeniscent bacteria are marine usually found associated with fish. Other biolumeniscent marine bacteria live in sporophytically on dead fish. And occasionally form visible colonies on the fish surface.

Photobacterium isolated are facultative aerobes . They are luminescent only when oxygen is present. To see bioluminescence readily , one should observe the material in a completely dark room after the eyes have become adapted to the dark.

emitters in the ocean come in an surprising variety of forms -ranging from microns to meters ,from autotrophs to herbivores to carnivores


brainy red heads to dumb blonds , and from elegant to bizarre

even more important than their diversity, is their exceptional abundance. has been said that there are light producing creatures in virtually every cubic meter of the ocean, from surface to bottom and from coast to coast. Because the oceans represent such a vast amount of living space, this means that the actual numbers involved are staggering.



The bioluminescent copepod, Gaussia princeps, releases bioluminescence into the water from glands on its tail.
The bioluminescent dinoflagellate,

Pyrocystis fusiformis, emits light from cellular organelles, called scintillons.

Bioluminescence bacteria i.e. bacteria from family Vibrioaceae and photobacterium , among the few marine bacteria. Capable of emitting a blue green light because of the activity of the enzyme Luciferase. The peak emission of light is usually between 472545 nm. But one strain of vibrio fischeri emits yellow light with a major peak at 545 nm. Vibrio fischeri can degrade 3-5 cyclic AMP and use it as carbon , nitrogen , and phosphorous source for their growth.

Color of bioluminescence depends on the structure of the chemicals involved land animals (fireflies, other beetles) greens and yellows relatively rare marine animals blue, blue-green, green


primary difference between different kinds of light is how the electron gets excited in the first place.


incandescence such as from the sun, a candle flame or a light bulb, the electrons are excited by heat, so we tend to associate heat and light.

there are other, more efficient ways of getting electrons excited.

One of these is chemiluminescence, where light results from an efficient (also called cold) chemical reaction.

Light sticks are an example of a chemiluminescent reaction

is another form of chemiluminescent but the chemicals in light sticks are not related to those produced by animals.



are living lights in the ocean. Some flash. Some glow. Others pulsate, whirl and shimmer.

These lights are not just fascinating from a scientific perspective.

They are also beautiful, hypnotic, sometimes puzzling and often downright breathtaking.

But at least they provide a glimpse of this most incredible and least known of animal behaviors.

is visible light made by living creatures. On land it is rare. Fireflies are the bestknown terrestrial living lights, but there are a few others, such as earthworms, centipedes, and fungi. However, these creatures are generally not found in high abundance and do not play a significant role in the balance of nature on land. By contrast, in the ocean bioluminescence is very, very common.


is a form of chemiluminescence, where the reaction chemicals are produced by living organisms. The names assigned to these chemicals are luciferin for the substrate and Luciferase for the enzyme. However, there are many different forms of these chemicals


In this incomprehensibly(impossible to understand) vast living space, bioluminescence is the rule not the exception.
As a result, light producers may be viewed as some of the most successful species on our planet.

For example- the most abundant vertebrate on our planet is a bioluminescent fish called the Benttooth Bristlemouth

Several component are needed for bioluminescence Including enzyme Luciferase and a long chain aliphatic aldihyde e.g.- do decanal Reduced flavin mono nucleotide (FMNH2) and oxygen is also required . Primary electron donor is NADH and the electron pass through Luciferase as followsFMNH2+ O2+RCHO-FMN+RCOOH+H2O+LIGHT

The key points to note here is that the enzyme, Luciferase, catalyzes the reaction of the substrate, luciferin in the presence of oxygen to produce an excited energy state molecule. Then, when the excited state returns to the ground state, photons are released. The need for oxygen is one of the few universals in this equation, otherwise these are all very different chemicals.

The luciferin are much smaller molecules. For example- jellyfish luciferin, which is also known as coelenterazine, is assembled out of 3 amino acids. Firefly luciferin is derived from just two amino acids (tyrosine and cystiene). Bioluminescent bacteria use a reduced riboflavin phosphate (FMNH2) and dinoflagellates use a tetrapyrol, which is related to chlorophyll.

How do living organisms make light?

light is the result of the same process. An electron is excited to a higher energy state. When it falls back down to a lower energy level it gives up energy as a photon, the basic unit of light

Instead of producing their own chemicals some animals, such as flashlight fish and anglerfish, maintain a symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent bacteria.
The fish provide the bacteria with perfect little growth chambers, like the light organ under the eye of the flashlight fish or the lure, called the esca, of the anglerfish

The light generating system constituting a bypass route for shunting electrons from FMNH2 to oxygen without involving other electron carriers such as quinones and cytochromes.

Luciferin + O2 > Product* > Product + Light

The enzyme Luciferase catalyze the reaction and uses reduced flavin mono nucleotide , molecular oxygen and a long chain aldehyde . Evidence suggested that enzyme bound excited excited flavin intermediate is the direct source of luminescence . Electron used in light generation are diverted from the electron transport chain and ATP synthesis , and the bacteria expend considerable energy on luminescence.

The enzyme Luciferase shows a unique kind of regulatory synthesis called AUTOINDUCTION. The luminous bacteria produce a specific organic molecule that is auto inducer. Which accumulates in the culture medium during growth. When the amount of this substance reaches to a critical level, induction of Luciferase occur

The auto inducer in Vibrio fischeri has been identified as N- keto caproyl homoserine lactone. Culture of luminous bacteria at low cell density are not luminous. But become luminous when growth reaches to a sufficient high level of density. At high density level , the auto inducer can accumulate and function. Mechanism is called quorum sensing.

Because the auto inducer can not accumulate , because of which , free living luminescent bacteria in sea water is not luminescent. Luminous develops only when condition are favorable for the development of high population density. It is not clear why luminescence is density dependent in free living bacteria. While in symbiotic strain, the rationale for density dependent is clear. Luminescence develops only when sufficiently high population are reached in the light organ of the fish to allow a visible flash of light.

phenomenon of quorum sensing is a common regulatory mechanism used by a number of bacteria. During the process of quorum sensing, a bacterial species takes a population census and thereby induces specific cellular functions only at a high cell density.


An intercellular signaling molecule, commonly termed the autoinducer, is produced and subsequently sensed by the bacterial cells. Autoinducers can be thought of as pheromones: chemicals produced by an individual that can be sensed, and interpreted as a specific piece of information, by other individuals within a population

The quorum sensing response was observed in the luminescent marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri in the early 1970s and now serves as a model system for understanding quorum sensing in Gramnegative Proteobacteria It has been determined that two genes are essential for this type of regulatory scheme: luxI, which encodes an auto inducer synthase called LuxI; and luxR, which encodes an auto inducer-dependent activator of the luminescence genes called LuxR

The auto inducer molecule produced by LuxI is an acylated homoserine lactone (3-oxo-hexanoyl-homoserine lactone). V. fischeri cells are permeable to the auto inducer, therefore the compound accumulates within the cells and in the surrounding environment at equal concentrations. When the auto inducer reaches a critical threshold concentration, LuxR-auto inducer complexes begin to form and the genes responsible for cellular luminescence (the lux operon) are activated.

Quorum sensing thus constitutes an environmental sensing mechanism that allows the bacteria to respond to changes in their population density In the low nutrient environment of seawater, V. fischeri is present at low densities; any autoinducer produced by the cells diffuses away rapidly, and cellular luminescence does not occur.