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January 2012


The bacterial luciferase gene cassette (lux) is unique among bioluminescent bioreporter systems due to its ability to synthesize and/or scavenge all of the substrate compounds required for its production of light. As a result, the lux system has the unique ability to autonomously produce a luminescent signal, either continuously or in response to the presence of a specific trigger, across a wide array of organismal hosts. While originally employed extensively as a bacterial bioreporter system for the detection of specific chemical signals in environmental samples, the use of lux as a bioreporter technology has continuously expanded over the last 30 years to include expression in eukaryotic cells such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae and even human cell lines as well. Under these conditions, the lux system has been developed for use as a biomedical detection tool for toxicity screening and visualization of tumors in small animal models. As the technologies for lux signal detection continue to improve, it is poised to become one of the first fully implantable detection systems for intra-organismal optical detection through direct marriage to an implantable photon-detecting digital chip. This review presents the basic biochemical background that allows the lux system to continuously autobioluminesce and highlights the important milestones in the use of lux-based bioreporters as they have evolved from chemical detection platforms in prokaryotic bacteria to rodent-based tumorigenesis study targets. In addition, the future of lux imaging using integrated circuit microluminometry to image directly within a living host in real-time will be introduced and its role in the development of dose/response therapeutic systems will be highlighted.


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