Identification of genes and gene products necessary for bacterial bioluminescence

J. A. Engebrecht, M. Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

409 Scopus citations


Expression of luminescence in Escherichia coli was recently achieved by cloning genes from the marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri. One DNA fragment on a hybrid plasmid encoded regulatory functions and enzymatic activities necessary for light production. We report the results of a genetic analysis to identify the luminescence genes (lux) that reside on this recombinant plasmid. lux gene mutations were generated by hydroxylamine treatment, and these mutations were ordered on a linear map by complementation in trans with a series of polar transposon insertions on other plasmids. lux genes were defined by complementation of lux gene defects on pairs of plasmids in trans in E. coli. Hybrid plasmids were also used to direct the synthesis of polypeptides in the E. coli minicell system. Seven lux genes and the corresponding gene products were identified from the complementation analysis and the minicell programming experiments. These genes, in the order of their position on a linear map, and the apparent molecular weights of the gene products are luxR (27,000), luxI (25,000), luxC (53,000), luxD (33,000), luxA (40,000), luxB (38,000), and luxE (42,000). From the luminescence phenotypes of E. coli containing mutant plasmids, functions were assigned to these genes: luxA, luxB, luxC, luxD, and luxE encode enzymes for light production and luxR and luxI encode regulatory functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4154-4158
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13 I
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Genetics


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