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USDA approves stunning bioluminescent firefly petunias for sale

Date: 8.3.2024 

The USDA has approved Light Bio's "Firefly Petunias," and the company is taking US$29 pre-orders on these remarkable gene-edited houseplants. They glow in the dark, making them a captivating home decor addition for science buffs.

Kredit: Light Bio.They're indistinguishable from regular petunias during the day, but thanks to some genes spliced in from naturally bioluminescent mushrooms, their leaves and flowers emit a soft green glow in the dark, increasing in intensity around the edges and at places of new growth. The effect is extraordinary, accentuating the natural patterns in the plant.

The healthier the plant, and the more sunlight it gets, the brighter the glow – up to somewhere around the level of moonlight. Unlike other bioluminescent plants and animals, these don't requite any special food or treatment.

And because their glow is proportional to metabolic processes, you can make it brighter by sticking a ripe banana skin next to them, which will emit an ethylene growth hormone that ramps up the plants' metabolism.

Essentially, the lignin that gives plant cells their strength and stiffness contains a molecule called caffeic acid. The same molecule is also found in bioluminescent mushrooms, but these also have a pair of enzymes that convert caffeic acid into a luminescent molecule called luciferin. A third enzyme oxidizes the luciferin, releasing a photon, and a fourth converts the oxidized luciferin back into caffeic acid so the glowing process can start again. The DNA spliced into these Firefly Petunias lets them produce the same enzymes to harness the same effect.

Image source: Light Bio.




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