Meet the Lampyridae
About this video
From fireflies to antibiotics.
Microbiologist and bioluminescence enthusiast, Dr Siouxsie Wiles explores how a firefly gene is illuminating research into new medicines.
Within the Lampyridae family of insects (fireflies) is a gene that encodes for an enzyme called luciferase. It is this enzyme that catalyses the chemoluminescent reaction within the organism that generates its characteristic light from the oxidation of luciferins, using energy from ATP.
As all living things produce ATP, this gene can be used in research to test for the presence of life via the emission of light. Organisms expressing this gene will only emit if they're alive, meaning that light can be used as a marker for the presence of life – a technique that is proving particularly useful when testing new antibiotics on bacteria.
Licence: Standard YouTube Licence