Our current research interests fall into two categories: 1) the elucidation of biochemical components in the bioluminescence of coelenterates and 2) the application of this knowledge in developing practical genetically-based assays for gene expression.
1. We are currently completing the characterization of a bioluminescence energy transfer system involving a unique chromoprotein known as the green-fluorescent protein (Science. 1994). Fluorescence involves a post-translationally modified tripeptide in the primary sequence of the protein (Cody et al.. 1993). We have recently proposed an evolutionary relationship between the biosynthetic pathways of luciferin and GFP (Ward & McCapra. 1993).
2. The GFP gene has been cloned and is expressed as an inheritable fluorescent cell marker in all species tested, (Chalfie et al.. 1994). We now have reason to believe that luciferin is also genetically encoded. Thus, it may be possible to establish a nearly universal in vivo bioluminescence assay for gene promotion, induction and repression and to design a bioluminescent "Ames test" or "Rec-assay" based on the coelenterate bioluminescence system.