Bacterial bioluminescence: Isolation and genetic analysis of functions from Vibrio fischeri

Joanne Engebrecht, Kenneth Nealson, Michael Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

581 Scopus citations


Recombinant E. coli that produce light were found in a clone library of hybrid plasmids containing DNA from the marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri. All luminescent clones had a 16 kb insert that encoded enzymatic activities for the light reaction as well as regulatory functions necessary for expression of the luminescence phenotype (Lux). Mutants generated by transposons Tn5 and mini-Mu were used to define Lux functions and to determine the genetic organization of the lux region. Regulatory and enzymatic functions were assigned to regions of two lux operons. With transcriptional fusions between the lacZ gene on transposon mini-Mu and the target gene, expression of lux operons could be measured in the absence of light production. The direction of transcription of lux operons was deduced from the orientation of mini-Mu insertions in the fusion plasmids. Induction of transcription of one lux operon required a function encoded by that operon (autoregulation). From these and other regulatory relationships, we propose a model for genetic control of light production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-781
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Bacterial bioluminescence: Isolation and genetic analysis of functions from Vibrio fischeri'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this