Use of bacterial and firefly luciferases as reporter genes in DEAE-dextran-mediated transfection of mammalian cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • The aim of this study was to compare three different luciferase genes by placing them in a single reporter vector and expressing them in the same mammalian cell type. The luciferase genes investigated were the luc genes from the fireflies Photinus pyralis (PP) and Luciola mingrelica (LM) and the lux AB5 gene, a translational fusion of the two subunits of the bacterial luciferase from Vibrio harveyi (VH). The chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene was also included in this study for comparison. The performances of the assay methods of the corresponding enzymes were evaluated using reference materials and the results of the expressed enzymes following transfection were calculated using calibration curves. All of the bioluminescent assays possess high reproducibility both within and between the batches (less than 15%). The comparison of the assay methods shows that firefly luciferases have the highest detection sensitivity (0.05 and 0.08 amol for PP and LM, respectively) whereas the VH bacterial luciferase has 5 amol and CAT 100 amol. On the other hand, the transfection of the various plasmids shows that the content of the expressed enzyme within the cells is much higher for CAT than for the other luciferase genes. VH luciferase is expressed at very low levels in mammalian cells due to the relatively high temperature of growing of the mammalian cells that seems to impair the correct folding of the active enzyme. PP and LM luciferases are both expressed at picomolar level but usually 10 to 70 times less in content with respect to CAT within the transfected cells. On the basis of these results the overall improvement in sensitivity related to the use of firefly luciferases as reporter genes in mammalian cells is about 30 to 50 times with respect to that of CAT.

published proceedings

  • Anal Biochem

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Pazzagli, M., Devine, J. H., Peterson, D. O., & Baldwin, T. O.

citation count

  • 73

complete list of authors

  • Pazzagli, M||Devine, JH||Peterson, DO||Baldwin, TO

publication date

  • January 1992