Vibrio harveyi bacteria protect themselves from the damaging effects of UV radiation by channeling the UV energy to bioluminescent proteins.

Bioluminescence is a seemingly confusing for bacteria. Unlike large multicellular organisms, bacteria do not use it to catch prey or find mates. Recent research has even shown that under normal conditions, bioluminescent bacteria cannot compete with non-luminescent versions of themselves since they are wasting so much energy on the seemingly useless process. However, when exposed to UV light, the luminescent strains eventually came to dominate the cultures. This suggests that the bioluminescence is somehow related to preventing damage from the ionizing radiation. Research has demonstrated that bioluminescence requires radical initiators or reactive oxygen species in order to provide the energy required to release a photon. It is conceivable that bacteria are capable of channeling some of the reactive species produced by the ionizing UV radiation into their bioluminescent pathways in order to eliminate the harmful substances.

Last Updated August 23, 2016