Early Studies on Light-emitting Microorganisms

Genelux whose corporate name is derived from the Latin for “to produce” and “light” has a long history in the use of luminescence and fluorescent proteins in live microorganisms.

Bioluminescence is a form of chemiluminescence occurring naturally in fireflies, anglerfish and other creatures where energy is released by a chemical reaction in the form of light emission.

Nearly 15 years before founding Genelux in 2001, Dr. Aladar Szalay and colleagues conducted a number of experiments involving luminescent proteins, including a seminal manuscript in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,1 describing the interaction of bacteria with other organisms (in this case a soybean root) based simply on detection of light. Dr. Szalay and colleagues introduced nitrogenase nifD and nifH promoter-luxAB fusions into the chromosome of Bradyrhizobium japonicum and showed symbiotically regulated bioluminescence in the soybean root nodules (limited growth tumors) that was strong enough to be detected by the naked eye.

The team also pioneered the introduction of luciferase genes into single cells of tobacco plants to understand how a single cell of plant can differentiate into an entire organism and monitored this process by a single photon-counting camera. This early work became the foundation for the development of the Company’s diagnostics capabilities today.

Soybean Root (Left); Soybean root nodule demonstrating expression of bacterial luciferase

1 LegockiRP, LegockiM, Baldwin TO, and Szalay AA. 1986. Bioluminescence in soybean root nodules: Demonstration of a general approach to assay gene expression in vivo using bacterial luciferase. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 83: 9080-9084.