Quantum Yields and Quantitative Spectra of Firefly Bioluminescence with Various Bivalent Metal Ions


Corresponding author email: wang@issp.u-tokyo.ac.jp (Yu Wang)


We measured quantitative spectra of firefly (Photinus pyralis) bioluminescence in the presence of Zn2+ and other bivalent metal ions to investigate the effects of these metal ions on luciferin-luciferase reaction. We studied the dependence of the quantum yield and spectrum on quantity and kind of bivalent metal ions. Adding various amounts of Mg2+, Mn2+ and Ca2+ produced virtually no change in the quantum yields or the spectra of bioluminescence. In contrast, increasing amounts of ions such as Zn2+ and Cd2+ decreased quantum yields and changed the bioluminescence color from yellow-green to red. Quantitative analysis showed that the sensitivities of the quantum yield and color to various metal ions were in the order of Hg2+>Zn2+, Cd2+>Ni2+, Co2+, Fe2+≫Mg2+, Mn2+, Ca2+. We propose that the changes in quantum yield and spectrum caused by the metal ions are due to their effect on luciferase that surrounds oxyluciferin during its radioactive decay. We also found that having more metal ions accelerated bioluminescence reactions. The sensitivity of the reaction rate had no correlation with those of the quantum yield and spectrum.