Daniel Geiger dgeiger at
Wed Jul 5 15:49:08 EST 1995

yuigu01 at (Ralf Guenther) writes:

I guess the article refered to the phenomenon generally known as bioluminescence. Two strategie can be followed by a variety of organims:
- The larger organism (host) harbours some symbiotic bacteria (e.g. Photobacterium lagneithii: species name spelling?; Vibrio fischeri). These bacteria are cultured in specialized organs called photophores. They are remarkably similarly shaped to eyes and some people try to link gene expression of pax6 to ontogenetic changes in the photophores. The amount of light given off by the photophore is controlled by supply of the bacteria with oxygen and also by an iris diaphragm and chromatophor movement in the cup surrounding the bacterial culture.
In this symbiosis the bacteria produce the light and the host only supplies the environment for growth.
- The organism ("host") produces the photoactive chemicals conventionally called luciferin (substrate) and luciferase (enzyme) which emits some light during the catalytic reaction. The actual chemicals termed luciferin and luciferase may actually be quite different, but as functional units they are very similar to each other.

A good survey is given in Herring et al. 1990(?): Light and life in the sea. I think Cambridge University press, some 400 pages. It is a conference proceeding but the chapters are wide spread in respect to topics and are rather review papers than actual research articles. It is a very readable book, highly interesting and with heaps of references.

As a marine biologist I particular am familiar with marine occurrences of biolumiescence, but there are many others in the terrestrial realm. The same principels as above apply, but I have no good survey literature in my mind. Can any body out there supply that part ?

best wishes		Daniel  (dgeiger at

> I recently read that cells do emit light -"biophotons" - and maybe even communicate via such a channel. Can anyone out there explain if this is science or fiction?
>Thanks in advance

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