Incorporation of the Firefly Luciferase Gene into Plant Cells

  • D. W. Ow
  • S. H. Howell
Part of the Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry book series (AGRICULTURE, volume 9)


Reporter, or indicator genes such as lacZ (beta-galactosidase) and CAT (chloramphenicol acetyltransferase), encode for enzymes that allow convenient and sensitive biochemical detection of gene activity. For this reason, they have been used extensively for analysis of gene regulation. Recently, luciferases, enzymes that catalyze light emission, have been successfully used to measure gene expression in bacteria, mammalian cells and plant cells (Engebrecht et al. 1985; Ow et al. 1986, 1987; de Wet et al. 1987). In principle, a luciferase gene (or gene operon) is the biological equivalent of an indicator light. By placing it under the control of a biological switch, such as when fused behind a gene promoter, light emission becomes a reflection of promoter activity. Not only does it indicate when and where the biological switch is turned on, but the intensity of light emission measures transcriptional strength. Aside from monitoring gene promoter activity, a biological indicator light can also be put to many other uses. For example, it can serve as a screen-able marker in the transfer of DNA into eukaryotic cells, or as a convenient tag for studies of transmission and population genetics. This chapter reviews our recent work on the development of the firefly luciferase gene as a reporter of gene expression in plants.


Light Emission Leaf Explants Firefly Luciferase Transient Expression Assay Firefly Luciferase Gene 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. W. Ow
    • 1
  • S. H. Howell
    • 2
  1. 1.Plant Gene Expression Center, U.S. Dept. of AgricultureUniversity of California at BerkeleyAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Boyce Thompson InstituteCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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