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Bioluminescence: one technology - many faces
Introduction to the many applications of bioluminescent assays

The complexity of the cellular environment complicates the analysis of biochemical changes occurring inside of cells. Bioluminescence provides a unique technology for accurately quantifying physiological parameters within the cell. Over the years, we have exploited the chemistry of the bioluminescent reaction to assay reporter gene activity, changes in ATP levels, and the enzymatic conversion of pro-luciferin substrates. By allowing one of the reaction components to vary while keeping the others fixed, these assays can be used to sensitively quantify promoter elements, cell surface and nuclear receptor activation, viable cell number or enzymatic activities. All of the assay results benefit from the high sensitivity, low background and large dynamic range of bioluminescent technology as compared to fluorescence. Recently, a novel genetically engineered firefly luciferase was developed as biosensor. This biosensor can detect specific molecular interactions through real-time modulation of its luminescence activity. Applications of this type of biosensor are: real-time monitoring of cAMP in live cells, detection of protease activity and specificity, etc. All these strategies to exploit bioluminescence have led to the formation of a comprehensive portfolio of integrated bioluminescent products including cell-based assay reagents, hardware, software and support to help researchers successfully explore gene, protein and cellular interactions.

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