A synthetic luciferin improves bioluminescence imaging in live mice

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Firefly luciferase is the most widely used optical reporter for noninvasive bioluminescence imaging (BLI) in rodents. BLI relies on the ability of the injected luciferase substrate D-luciferin to access luciferase-expressing cells and tissues within the animal. Here we show that injection of mice with a synthetic luciferin, CycLuc1, improves BLI with existing luciferase reporters and enables imaging in the brain that could not be achieved with D-luciferin.

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Figure 1: BLI of tumor xenografts with D-luciferin and CycLuc1.
Figure 2: Comparison of D-luciferin and CycLuc1 in luciferase-expressing transgenic mice.
Figure 3: Comparison of D-luciferin and CycLuc1 in the brain.

Change history

  • 13 February 2014

    In the version of this article initially published online, the author name Miranda A. Paley was incorrectly spelled as Miranwda A. Paley. The error has been corrected for the print, PDF and HTML versions of this article.


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This work was supported by grants from the US National Institutes of Health (R01EB013270 to S.C.M. and NS38194 to N.A.), the CHDI (to N.A.), the American Cancer Society (IRG-98-279-07 to J.A.P.) and the University of California, Irvine, School of Physical Sciences (to J.A.P.).

Author information




M.S.E. and J.A.P. imaged tumors and L2G85-FVB mice, G.R.R. synthesized CycLuc1, M.A.P. imaged cultured cells, J.P.C. bred Dat mice, S.T.A. and J.P.C. imaged AAV9 and Dat mice, N.A. contributed to the development of AAV9 and Dat mouse models and manuscript editing, S.C.M. designed CycLuc1, and S.C.M. and J.A.P. led the study and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jennifer A Prescher or Stephen C Miller.

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Competing interests

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, at which some of the authors are employed, holds patents on luciferin substrates (US7910087 and US8216550), for which the assignee is the University of Massachusetts and the inventor is Stephen C. Miller.

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Evans, M., Chaurette, J., Adams, S. et al. A synthetic luciferin improves bioluminescence imaging in live mice. Nat Methods 11, 393–395 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmeth.2839

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