Hastings, J. Woodland Biological Laboratories, Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Last reviewed:March 2020
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- Luminous organisms
- Biology and biochemistry
- Cnidarians and ctenophores
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The emission of light by living organisms that is visible to other organisms. Bioluminescence (see illustration) does not come from or depend on light absorbed by the organism. It derives from an enzymatically catalyzed chemiluminescence, that is, a reaction in which the energy released is transformed into light energy. One of the reaction intermediates or products is formed in an electronically excited state, which then emits a photon. The enzymes and other proteins associated with bioluminescence have been developed and exploited as markers or reporters of other biochemical processes in biomedical research. Thus, bioluminescence provides a unique tool for investigating and understanding numerous basic physiological processes, both cellular and organismic. See also: Chemiluminescence; Enzyme; Light; Luminescence; Photon; Protein
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