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Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Coelenterazine is the luciferin, the light-emitting molecule, found in many aquatic organisms across seven phyla. It is the substrate of many luciferases such as Renilla reniformis luciferase (Rluc), Gaussia luciferase (Gluc), and photoproteins, including aequorin, and obelin.
Coelenterazine was simultaneously isolated and characterized by two groups studying the luminescent organisms sea pansy (Renilla reniformis) and the coelenterate Aequorea victoria, respectively. Both groups unknowingly discovered that the same compound was used in both luminescent systems, however the name of the molecule was given after the coelenterate. Likewise, the two main metabolites - coelenteramide and coelenteramine - were named after their respective functional groups. Despite being first discovered in Aequorea victoria, it was later shown that they do not synthesize coelenterazine, rather they obtain it through their diet, largely from crustaceans and copepods.
Coelenterazine is widely found in marine organisms including:
- cnidarians such as Aequorea victoria, Obelia geniculata and Renilla reniformis
- squid such as Watasenia scintillans and Vampyroteuthis infernalis
- shrimp such as Systellaspis debilis and Oplophorus gracilirostris
- copepods such as Pleuromamma xiphias and Gaussia princeps
- fish including some Neoscopelidae and Myctophidae
- echinoderms such as Amphiura filiformis
Coelenterazine can be crystallized into orange-yellow crystals. The molecule absorbs light in the ultraviolet and visible spectrum, with peak absorption at 435 nm in methanol, giving the molecule a yellow color. The molecule spontaneously oxidizes in aerobic conditions or in some organic solvents such as dimethylformamide and DMSO and is preferentially stored in methanol or with an inert gas.
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- Bioluminescence Page showing major luciferin types