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Significance for Bioluminescence

light, pyrogallol, luminous, animals and blood


The reader has doubtless already noticed the similarity of the pyro reaction and the luciferin-luciferase reaction of Dubois. Just as Dubois supposed luciferin to be oxidized by luci ferase, so we actually find oxidized by peroxidase. We now know that luciferin (photophelein) is not oxidized by luci ferase (photogenin) but that Dubois's luciferase is actually the source of the light of luminous animals; so that the luminescence of pyrogallol turns out to bear only a superficial resemblance to that of organisms. Pyrogallol will give no light with either photogenin or pho tophelein, nor will peroxidase give light with either photogenin or photophelein, even if we add However, it is interesting and important to know that certain substances found in plants and animals can assist in oxidizing other substances found in plants and animals with the production of light. The light produced in these cases is faint compared with the light produced by luminous organisms or compared with the light produced by substances from luminous organ isms in a test-tube, but nevertheless it is light with very little heat, and perhaps a further survey will reveal the existence of definite compounds producing light in a manner more closely resembling that of Cypridina. As has been shown by Trautz (z6) the spectrum of luminescent pyro gallol is continuous but shorter than the normal spectrum, so that there is marked similarity in the physical characteristics of the light of chemiluminescent substances and of luminous organisms.


1. Pyrogallol gives off a yellowish-white light about equal in inten sity to a suspension of luminous bacteria when oxidized by blood or plant-juices (oxidases) in presence of 2. The light is visible in very weak concentrations of pyrogallol, viz, m/32,000 or 1 part to 254,000 parts solution. must be present in at least 0.025 per cent, blood in 0.1 per cent (dried defibrinated blood), potato-juice in 5 per cent (fresh pure juice), to give a just visible light.

3. Of many easily oxidizable hydroxy- and amino-phenols only pyrogallol gives light. or FeC13, K2Cr04, Mn(OH)2-1-Mn(OH)3, Fe2Fe(CN)6, and colloidal Pt, Au, and Ag will all give light with pyrogallol. Extracts of inverte brates, except those of Chiton, a few marine annelids, and the blood of a squid (Sepia) and a marine crayfish (Panulirus), do not give light. Ba02, benzoyl quinone, or ozonized turpentine will not take the place of H202.

4. Light is produced at 0° C. and a bright light at 10° C. The oxi dase of plant-juices is destroyed between 80° and 85° C.

5. KCN inhibits the light-production in very weak concentration, m/1280 to m/2560. NaOH inhibits in n/40 and HC1 in n/80 con centration, but these figures give no idea of the H-ion concentration.

6. Ether and chloroform have no effect on the light-production.

7. The oxidase is not a true catalyzer, but is used up in transferring oxygen from to the pyrogallol.

8. The reaction has nothing to do with the production of light by luminous animals.