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Bioluminescent plants?

20 years ago

I have an odd question for all of you. I was considering how interesting it would be to combine a bioluminescent organism such as pyrocystis fusiformis and panellus stipticus with a plant, such as a weigela or other hardy perennial. I was wondering if such a thing has been done already, or if any of you have heard of similar crosses. Thank you in advance for any replies.

Comments (28)

  • geoforce
    20 years ago

    Although genes from fluorescent coral or jellyfish have been gene spliced into several microbe varieties, and I believe a few plants, I know of no trials of bioluminescent material. Such would require not only the genes for the proper phosphor, but also the enzymes required to activate them, and probably the entire metabolic pathway to make it work. Saw some recent announcements about new color fluorescent genes being used recently, but your proposal, while probably doable, would certainly require a major effort.


  • SAVeg
    20 years ago

    I can't remember where exactly, but the gene coding for "luciferin?" has been transfered from firlies into tobacco. I remember seeing the picture in one of my Genetics textbooks - but I'll have to do some reading up.

  • Max75
    20 years ago

    bioluminescence is incredibly taxing on metabolism. While one may be able to splice the luminescence gene casettes into a plant, the glowing plant will be miserable.

  • Bisquick
    20 years ago

    I remember something about Bioluminescent orchids, this is the first thing I found in an internet search. It does sound weird.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Glowing Orchids

  • marbree
    20 years ago

    I wonder if this real or not. Supposed to be an auction from 2000

    Here is a link that might be useful: Biolumenescent orchid auction from 2000

  • scryn
    20 years ago

    Mmm now that I have read some more info on the orchid I believe they added both the luciferin and luciferase genes to the orchid, therefore the substrate must contain something that activates the gene prior to the luciferase gene so that the two genes are transcribed and luciferase is produced to convert lucifern.
    But as you can see this is very technical..
    this is a great article on the ethics of creating bioluminescent organisms, it also talks about the glowing orchid

    sorry if i bored you all! I can't help but to be interested as it is part of my job! Grrr and all this time it was my dream to start my own company and make plants that glow, and someone beat me to it!
    Well maybe I can make AFFORDABLE plants that grow. That would be nice ! :)

  • Leandro
    20 years ago

    I´ve asked the guy that made these luminescent orchids and he says that you have to add luciferin to the flower for them to actually glow.
    I think that the gene(s) for making firefly luciferin haven´t been cloned (isolated) yet, so most luciferin is actually synthetic. By the way, the luminescent photo of tobacco is due to the LUCIFERASE gene, luciferin -again- is added externally. Since then, luciferase has been used as a general gene reporter in many, many organisms in the lab(as well stated by Geoforce).
    Another example of luminescent chimerae is the case of GFP modified organisms. GFP (green fluorescent protein) is a protein from jellyfish. I´s not luminescent but FLUORESCENT (only luminescent when illuminated with UV light). Surely you´ve heard about the fluorescent rabbits or mice. But the point here is that they need an external UV-light source to glow. And it would be far more interesting to have a self glowing organism, wouldn´t it?
    Fungi genes (e.g. panellus stipticus) responsible for bioluminescence haven´t been cloned either. And these are very interesting, since they give a CONTINUOUS AND VERY BRIGHT GLOW without harming the methabolism of the organism (a good point Max75!).
    However there are a couple of patents of luminescent plants in which the gene for GFP is copupled to an actually luminescent protein called coelenterazine (also from jellyfish) responsible for giving light, which is in turn amplified by the GFP mentioned above.
    Finally, to those that state that tinkering with genes is an insult to nature, I would like to say that things are not that simple. Humans have been altering the genetic background of organisms for milleniums, even before genetics by the processes of crossing, artificial selection, etc. This is only a faster way. And it could bring the solution for world starving, as the crops are being made more resistant to plagues, weather conditions, etc. We all know that technology cuts both ways, so it´s within us what we do with it. Believe me, this technology (if not misused) should never have a worst impact on nature than DDT and other environmentally unfriendly chemicals.

    I don´t know for certain if self-luminescent plants are already at labs, but I think we should wait a while before we can go and buy some of them for our fantasy garden.
    Good luck!


  • blam
    15 years ago

    hey, sorry for asking but does anyone actually know how to do it? like the methods and results of this investigations?!?
    thanks ahead for anyone who replies.

  • thisissci
    15 years ago

    Hello everyone, very informative discussion. Last summer a few friends and I hiked to the top of a stream on a mountain. At the top, I discovered bioluminescence in a patch of young clovers underneath a gentle waterfall. I would label the plants bio luminescent but i believe that the plant is using the leafs shape to capture a perfect bulb of water, to create a refractory glow. I have some pictures and a sample. Feel free to email me if anyone thinks anything extraordinary of these plants.

  • cana91_gmail_com
    15 years ago

    Hi !

    I'm really wondering why it's commercialised. Do you know a company working on bioluminescent plant or who own the patents?


  • orchidsrule
    15 years ago

    @ blam

    What exactly are you referring too? There numerous ways to genetically modify (transform) plants. You can use gene guns (coats pellets with genetic material and shoot enough cells. Hopefully, one survives the barrage of bullets and incorporates the new DNA somewhere). Or, for certain plants (dicots, specifically) you can use a bacterium called Agrobacterium. Basically, it causes tumors by infecting the plants with plasmids of DNA. By using weak (not virulent/destructive) strains, you can genetically modify the Agrobacterium to transmit the right plasmid (bacterial ring of DNA).

    About glowing darks, to the best of my knowledge they are not sold in the United States. There are many orchid enthusiasts would love to grow one, but I believe it is a "threat to our environment" (very ridiculous since Dendrobium has no native relatives in America).

    There's also been an application (I've long since lost the original article, it was an a Chemical and Engineering News) of glow in the dark plants in agriculture. Some lab was able to make a plant glow when it needed more water.

    To make this happen, you need to know some genetic basics. A gene is basically everything between a start codon and stop codon. By putting the gene you want in a gene that is often expressed, you can get the desired gene to be expressed. Also, you can add a gene to screen with, such as light or resistances to antibiotics/herbicides (organisms without the gene/transformation was unsuccessful die).

    You can email me from my profile if you have more questions.

  • zen_man
    15 years ago

    They have sold glow-in-the-dark genetically modified aquarium fish. I wonder how long it will be until someone tosses one in a lake and they escape into our environment. And what unintended consequences might flow from that.

  • brendan_of_bonsai
    14 years ago

    Zenman, why would it do any harm? A fish that is weaker and stands out more than the wild type, which also has failed to establish its self in our environment doesn't pose much of a threat.

    I suspect that eventually we would be able to copy the whole pathway into a plant, and perhaps put a regulatory region on it so that it only happens on part of the petals, or something like that.

  • zen_man
    14 years ago


    "...why would it do any harm?"

    I don't know what unintended consequences might result from the accidental introduction of a bioluminescent aquarium fish into our lakes, streams, and rivers. Maybe the fish would get eaten before it laid any eggs. The bioluminescence might just die out at that point. But the fish might lay eggs, or the fish that ate it might acquire bioluminescence. Or the bacteria that decomposed its body might acquire luminescence or some other change. There have already been unintended consequences from genetically modified corn in which accidental hybridization with wild corn transferred the modification to the wild corn.

    "... perhaps put a regulatory region on it so that it only happens on part of the petals, or something like that."

    Glowing lights on parts of the petals could look great. But fireflies might mistake those lights for female fireflies and attempt to mate with them, with serious consequences for the firefly population. Maybe not.

    But I think that a lot of people are concerned about possible unintended consequences of genetic modification. I seem to recall that some genetically modified tomatoes got some human genes. Does that make us cannibals if we eat those tomatoes?


  • brendan_of_bonsai
    14 years ago


    "...or the fish that ate it might acquire bioluminescence..."

    No ... just no, you are just as likely to acquire bioluminesece from eating an acorn as you are from eating a bioluminescent fish. Incidentally we were talking about florescent fish. The eukaryotic gene regulators that activate the florescent genes will not work in bacteria as well.

    There have already been unintended consequences from genetically modified corn in which accidental hybridization with wild corn transferred the modification to the wild corn..."

    Yes some genes can (did?) jump from a farm field to a wild population, there are no wild populations of Brachidanio rerio in the Americas. Also the unintended consequence is when something happens, when a gene moves and doesn't matter its really more of a non-event.

    "...But fireflies might mistake those lights for female fireflies and attempt to mate with them, with serious consequences for the firefly population..."

    Fireflies mate based on pasterns of flashes, otherwise they would try and mate with streetlamps and the like.

    "... genetically modified tomatoes got some human genes. Does that make us cannibals [?]..."

    My guess is that these weren't for eating, but we share many genes base pair for base pair with many of our food sources.

  • zen_man
    14 years ago


    "...when a gene moves and [it] doesn't matter, it's really more of a non-event."

    It's true that many of the unintended consequences of genetic modification haven't made any obvious, overt differences, at least not yet. Most of us have eaten genetically modified DNA in many of our foodstuffs, and those foods have no labels about genetic modification. That was probably an unintended consequence, but in my opinion it is too early to conclude that these were non-events or that there will be no consequences that matter. It took us a long time to become aware of the unintended consequences of using DDT. And apparently the breakdown of the ozone layer and global warming are unintended consequences that didn't seem like much at first.

    "Fireflies mate based on patterns of flashes, otherwise they would try and mate with streetlamps and the like."

    I was kind of kidding about that. On the other hand, there are a lot of bugs around our street lamp... (grin)

    "My guess is that these weren't for eating, but we share many genes base pair for base pair with many of our food sources."

    That's true. It has been noted that just because a gene is in a human doesn't mean that it is [exclusively] a human gene. In other words, we don't have exclusive ownership of our genes, which is another way of saying what you said about our sharing gene bases pairs with other life forms.


  • JeremiahCFelt_aol_com
    13 years ago

    Zenman, stop arguing. You're clever but you don't have your facts straight

  • scarletescence_gmail_com
    13 years ago

    Yes, Bioluminescence has been infused into plants. However, as it is not naturally synthesized by most plants, and they are not designed to bioluminesce, it requires an enormous amount of energy to maintain all basic plant functions and still bioluminesce. It has been accomplished with tobacco by germinating a seed in water mixed with Luciferase Enzyme. There are several naturally occurring fungi that bioluminesce, and there are a great many patents for methods of forcing plants to bioluminesce. One particular US Patent is for splicing a luminescence gene into the reproductive gene for flowering plants. It did cause the plant to produce bioluminescent flowers, but it also introduced sterility. There have also been attempts to infuse plants' genotypes with aequorin, the bioluminescent chemical found in some jellyfish.

  • spinellie10_hotmail_com
    13 years ago

    I'm not a scientist but I'm doing a project on sci-fi architecture and was playing with the idea of using this technique to light a building (albeit a particular quality of light) Do you think this would be possible?

  • Crossbreed
    13 years ago

    I met a guy once that was trying to start up a lab operation. I think his name was Dr. Ekoja Sisiht or something like that. He was experimenting with color changing roses! Maybe he was making light of my lack of plant wizardry knowledge.. but he didnt seem like a fraud.


  • zen_man
    13 years ago


    He was probably sincere. Some plants, like hydrangeas, can change their flower color. In the case of hydrangea, it has to do with the soil pH. Some flowers already change color to a certain degree. The zinnia variety Exquisite changes color as it matures. One of my hybrid-of-hybrid zinnia specimens did an odd color change while it was developing.

    I think that a color changing rose would be patented and could become quite a money maker. Roses are big business, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if genetic engineering techniques are now being used to create new rose varieties.


  • WriterOne
    11 years ago

    Hi folks:

    I realize this is a bit off topic, but I appreciate the rigor and wisdom in the thread.

    I'm working on a science fiction novel in which I imagine a group of people have been genetically engineered for bioluminescence, in order to work underground more safely.

    From what I've found, the animal research (pigs, cats) produces fluorescence but not bioluminescence.

    Any thoughts on whether animal or (theoretically) human engineered bioluminescence is possible, and by what means it would be achieved?



  • keking
    11 years ago

    To Crossbreed and Zenman.

    Color changing roses are not at all new. 'Mutatilis' is an old variety that opens yellow and changes by degree to velvety crimson. 'Emmy Grey' changes from pink to crimson. The trait has been bred into modern roses.


    Here is a link that might be useful: Mutabilis

  • zen_man
    11 years ago

    Hi W1,

    "Any thoughts on whether animal or (theoretically) human engineered bioluminescence is possible, and by what means it would be achieved?"

    I think it is technically possible, using the same genetic engineering techniques that were used to create bioluminescent aquarium fish. But I think there would be a furor if genetic engineering of humans was announced.


  • amaryllis52
    10 years ago

    Today is the future and you can do this and it will be done.If you are reading this please checkout kick starter and support a change in the way things work.There are no walls there is no spoon and plants will glow as long as you dream.

  • zen_man
    10 years ago


    Interesting article, and very relevant to the subject of this old message thread.

    I am skeptical about the money aspect of this. The article says, "The project is also being financed in a D.I.Y. sort of way: It has attracted more than $250,000 in pledges from about two weeks on the Web site Kickstarter."

    Also, they don't seem to be distinguishing between fluorescent and luminescent. A lot of things are already fluorescent without any help from bioengineering.

    And they are bandying about the term "synthetic biology". Did they just make that up, or are there books with that phrase in their title? I won't be giving them any money. That doesn't mean I think that bioluminescent plants are impossible.


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