Accepted name: firefly luciferase
Reaction: D-firefly luciferin + O2 + ATP = firefly oxyluciferin + CO2 + AMP + diphosphate +
Glossary: D-firefly luciferin = Photinus-luciferin = (S)-4,5-dihydro-2-(6-hydroxy-1,3-benzothiazol-2-yl)thiazole-4-carboxylate
firefly oxyluciferin = 4,5-dihydro-2-(6-hydroxy-1,3-benzothiazol-2-yl)thiazol-4-one
Other name(s): Photinus-luciferin 4-monooxygenase (ATP-hydrolysing); luciferase (firefly luciferin); Photinus luciferin 4-monooxygenase (adenosine triphosphate-hydrolyzing); firefly luciferin luciferase; Photinus pyralis luciferase; Photinus-luciferin:oxygen 4-oxidoreductase (decarboxylating, ATP-hydrolysing)
Systematic name: D-firefly luciferin:oxygen 4-oxidoreductase (decarboxylating, ATP-hydrolysing)
Comments: The enzyme, which is found in fireflies (Lampyridae), is responsible for their biolouminescence. The reaction begins with the formation of an acid anhydride between the carboxylic group of D-firefly luciferin and AMP, with the release of diphosphate. An oxygenation follows, with release of the AMP group and formation of a very short-lived peroxide that cyclizes into a dioxetanone structure, which collapses, releasing a CO2 molecule. The spontaneous breakdown of the dioxetanone (rather than the hydrolysis of the adenylate) releases the energy (about 50 kcal/mole) that is necessary to generate the excited state of oxyluciferin. The excited luciferin then emits a photon, returning to its ground state. The enzyme has a secondary acyl-CoA ligase activity when acting on L-firefly luciferin (see EC
1.  Green, A. A. and McElroy, W. D. Crystalline firefly luciferase. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 20 (1956) 170–176. [PMID: 13315363]
2.  White, E.H., McCapra, F., Field, G.F. and McElroy, W.D. The structure and synthesis of firefly luciferin. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 83 (1961) 2402–2403.
3.  Hopkins, T.A., Seliger, H.H., White, E.H. and Cass, M.W. The chemiluminescence of firefly luciferin. A model for the bioluminescent reaction and identification of the product excited state. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 89 (1967) 7148–7150. [PMID: 6064360]
4.  White, E.H., Rapaport, E., Hopkins, T.A. and Seliger, H.H. Chemi- and bioluminescence of firefly luciferin. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 91 (1969) 2178–2180. [PMID: 5784183]
5.  Koo, J.A., Schmidt, S.P. and Schuster, G.B. Bioluminescence of the firefly: key steps in the formation of the electronically excited state for model systems. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 75 (1978) 30–33. [PMID: 272645]
6.  de Wet, J.R., Wood, K.V., Helinski, D.R. and DeLuca, M. Cloning of firefly luciferase cDNA and the expression of active luciferase in Escherichia coli. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 82 (1985) 7870–7873. [PMID: 3906652]
7.  Nakamura, M., Maki, S., Amano, Y., Ohkita, Y., Niwa, K., Hirano, T., Ohmiya, Y. and Niwa, H. Firefly luciferase exhibits bimodal action depending on the luciferin chirality. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 331 (2005) 471–475. [PMID: 15850783]
8.  Sundlov, J.A., Fontaine, D.M., Southworth, T.L., Branchini, B.R. and Gulick, A.M. Crystal structure of firefly luciferase in a second catalytic conformation supports a domain alternation mechanism. Biochemistry 51 (2012) 6493–6495. [PMID: 22852753]
[EC created 1976, modified 1981, modified 1982, modified 2017]
Accepted name: L-firefly luciferin—CoA ligase
Reaction: ATP + L-firefly luciferin + CoA = AMP + diphosphate + L-firefly luciferyl-CoA
Glossary: L-firefly luciferin = (R)-4,5-dihydro-2-(6-hydroxy-1,3-benzothiazol-2-yl)thiazole-4-carboxylate
Other name(s): LUC
Systematic name: (R)-4,5-dihydro-2-(6-hydroxy-1,3-benzothiazol-2-yl)thiazole-4-carboxylate:CoA ligase (AMP-forming)
Comments: This is an alternative activity of the firefly luciferase (EC, which the enzyme exhibits under normal conditions only when acting on the L-enantiomer of its substrate. The D-isomer can act as a substrate for the CoA—ligase activity in vitro only under low oxygen conditions that are not found in vivo. The activation of L-firefly luciferin to a CoA ester is a step in a recycling pathway that results in its epimerization to the D enantiomer, which is the only substrate whose oxygenation results in light emission.
1.  Fraga, H., Esteves da Silva, J.C. and Fontes, R. Identification of luciferyl adenylate and luciferyl coenzyme a synthesized by firefly luciferase. ChemBioChem 5 (2004) 110–115. [PMID: 14695520]
2.  Nakamura, M., Maki, S., Amano, Y., Ohkita, Y., Niwa, K., Hirano, T., Ohmiya, Y. and Niwa, H. Firefly luciferase exhibits bimodal action depending on the luciferin chirality. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 331 (2005) 471–475. [PMID: 15850783]
3.  Viviani, V.R., Scorsato, V., Prado, R.A., Pereira, J.G., Niwa, K., Ohmiya, Y. and Barbosa, J.A. The origin of luciferase activity in Zophobas mealworm AMP/CoA-ligase (protoluciferase): luciferin stereoselectivity as a switch for the oxygenase activity. Photochem Photobiol Sci 9 (2010) 1111–1119. [PMID: 20526507]
4.  Maeda, J., Kato, D.I., Okuda, M., Takeo, M., Negoro, S., Arima, K., Ito, Y. and Niwa, K. Biosynthesis-inspired deracemizative production of D-luciferin by combining luciferase and thioesterase. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1861 (2017) 2112–2118. [PMID: 28454735]
[EC created 2017]