Why aren't viruses bioluminescent?

Bioluminescent plants created : Luminous tobacco

Very different forms of life have developed the ability to generate light through chemical reactions. This bioluminescence is found, for example, in fireflies, deep-sea fish, bacteria and fungi. It does not occur in higher plants.

But now Russian researchers have succeeded in genetically modifying tobacco plants in such a way that they permanently produce green radiation that is visible to the naked eye without being supplied with additives. All that was needed was to incorporate four genes from a fungus capable of bioluminescence into the genome of the plants. D.

his method is in principle suitable for making every plant glow, the scientists write in the journal “Nature Biotechnology”.

On the one hand, the process could be used as an aid for research purposes. On the other hand, commercial use would also be conceivable by changing indoor plants accordingly or even creating bioluminescent trees that would then contribute to street lighting.

The plants glow, but are not really suitable as reading lamps

“The brightness achieved enabled high-quality recordings with commercially available cameras with exposure times between 0.5 and 30 seconds,” write the researchers working with Ilia Yampolsky and Karen Sarkisyan from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

They transferred four genes that are responsible for the bioluminescence of the fungus Neonothopanus nambi are responsible for the genome of tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana benthamiana). These genes carried the information needed to produce four enzymes. One of these is a luciferase, which - like fireflies - catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin, releasing energy in the form of light.

The researchers can also make petunias and roses shine

The other enzymes are used in a reaction cycle to convert caffeic acid into luciferin and regenerate it again after oxidation. Caffeic acid is an intermediate product of normal metabolism formed by all plants, which is necessary for the formation of lignin and therefore does not have to be supplied to the plants first.

Apart from an increase in size of twelve percent, the genetically modified plants did not differ in appearance and development from normal plants. All parts of the plant showed a luminescence that was strongest in the flowers and weakest in old parts of the shoot.

Fluctuations in the intensity of the emitted light could provide important information about the current metabolism, diseases, environmental influences and reactions to chemical treatments during the growth and breeding of plants.

The researchers were also able to equip other plant species, including periwinkles, petunias and roses, with the bioluminescent genes using genetic engineering. They think it is possible to increase the intensity of the light generated and to be able to vary the light color. (wsa)

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