Luciferase: new strategies to make it a biosensor

Monitoring gene expression it is just one piece of the big reporter gene cake. In a recent issue of ACS Chemical Biology, the group of Keith Wood from Promega introduces new covalent, non-covalent and allosteric design configurations to turn firefly luciferase in a biosensor to detect different intermolecular interactions trough modulation of its luminescence activity. Basically the group aims to branch new strategies for luciferases as intracellular probes: not only "genetic reporters", but even reporters (biosensors) of intracellular molecules and events.

Some years ago Promega was working on design of luciferin (the luciferase substrate) to make biosensors. Moving the design from the substrate to the enzyme it’s a big paradigm shift inside the company: it means that to date it’s easier to design (and then market at lower price) a genetic entity like luciferase instead of a chemical entity like the luciferin substrate. Genetic engineering is still in its early stages: how much “copy and paste” we have to do yet with reporter sequences!


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Fan, F., Binkowski, B., Butler, B., Stecha, P., Lewis, M., & Wood, K. (2008). Novel Genetically Encoded Biosensors Using Firefly Luciferase ACS Chemical Biology, 3 (6), 346-351 DOI: 10.1021/cb8000414