• aequorin;
  • coelenterazine;
  • luminescence;
  • photoprotein;
  • protein folding


Ca2+-regulated photoproteins use a noncovalently bound 2-hydroperoxycoelenterazine ligand to emit light in response to Ca2+ binding. To better understand the mechanism of formation of active photoprotein from apoprotein, coelenterazine and molecular oxygen, we investigated the spectral properties of the anaerobic apo-obelin–coelenterazine complex and the kinetics of its conversion into active photoprotein after exposure to air. Our studies suggest that coelenterazine bound within the anaerobic complex might be a mixture of N7-protonated and C2(−) anionic forms, and that oxygen shifts the equilibrium in favor of the C2(−) anion as a result of peroxy anion formation. Proton removal from N7 and further protonation of peroxy anion and the resulting formation of 2-hydroperoxycoelenterazine in obelin might occur with the assistance of His175. It is proposed that this conserved His residue might play a key role both in formation of active photoprotein and in Ca2+-triggering of the bioluminescence reaction.