Could bioluminescent trees replace streetlights?

Organisms that glow in the dark could be used to light our streets, according to researchers at São Paulo University in Brazil

Researchers from Brazil and Russia have brought us one step closer to the creation of bioluminescent trees that could be used as a sustainable source of street lighting.
Researchers from Brazil and Russia have brought us one step closer to the creation of bioluminescent trees that could be used as a sustainable source of street lighting.

Scientists have moved one step closer to producing bioluminescent trees that could be used to light our streets.

Researchers from Brazil’s São Paulo University and Russia’s Institute of Bio-organic Chemistry may now be able to explain why and how certain mushrooms glow in the dark, according to UK newspaper, the Guardian.

The Brazil-based team fitted plastic mushrooms with LED lights that matched the glow-in-the-dark hue of Neonthopanus gardneri, according to the Guardian. After installing the faux-fungi to a forest floor, the researchers found that the light attracted spore-spreading organisms.

Meanwhile, Moscow-based scientists have identified the chemical structure of the fungal protein used to generate bioluminescence.

Speaking to the UK newspaper, Ilia Yampolsky of the Institute of Bio-organic Chemistry, explained: “The mechanism of fungal bioluminescence suggests the formation of luciferin from a certain precursor.

“It was established that the luciferin precursor is also present in non-luminous forest fungi, and more importantly it is about 100 times more abundant than in the biomass of luminous species. Therefore, it made sense to extract the precursor from non-luminous fungi.”

The Russian team discovered that bioluminescent mushrooms employ a different type of luciferin from the eight other classes that are known to be used by animals and microbes.

“Unlike the other luciferins, fungal luciferin is compatible with plant biochemistry, and I hope that this will eventually allow the creation of an autonomously luminescent plant, one that would not require the external addition of luciferin, but would be able to biosynthesise by itself,” Yampolsky added.

This discovery of the ninth luciferin brings us one step closer to the creation of a genetically modified, bioluminescent tree that could be used as a sustainable source of street lighting, according to the Guardian’s report.

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