Luminescent marine bacteria, living lamps in the Strait of Messina
The light, yellow or blue, is produced by marine luminescent bacteria (mlb) through an enzymatic process, catalysed by the genetically regulated enzyme luciferase. The emission of light is triggered through a communication mechanism, quorum sensing, which bacteria use through chemical signals, to detect their density and start emitting light. The light emitted can be easily measured using a luminometer.
The cultivation of mlb is low cost and does not require special equipment. These aspects make them “useful” in various fields of Biotechnologies. For example, they are used to carry out toxicity tests in water: if they do not emit light, the water is polluted.