Scintillon Institute investigator Dr. Nathan Shaner, in collaboration with colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, has published a paper in PLoS ONE describing the discovery of a major clue about how marine organisms produce light.
Bioluminescence, the production of biological light, is a widespread phenomenon in the natural world, especially in the ocean. Dr. Shaner, along with Dr. Warren Francis, Lynne Christianson, Dr. Meghan Powers, and Dr. Steven Haddock, have discovered an enzyme present in ctenophores (comb jellies) that may be responsible for producing the "luciferin" necessary for luminescence in these organisms. This molecule, known as coelenterazine, is used by a wide range of marine organisms to produce light, and yet until this publication, there have been no clues about how the molecule is produced. This publication marks the beginning of a new era in bioluminescence research that will eventually lead to the development of new biological research tools for imaging living cells and studying human diseases.