Subcellular Sources of Luminescence in Noctiluca

Science  21 Jan 1966:
Vol. 151, Issue 3708, pp. 349-352
DOI: 10.1126/science.151.3708.349


The perivacuolar cytoplasm of Noctiluca miliaris contains approximately 104 microsources of luminescence, with dimensions of 0.5 to 1.5 microns, which exhibit marked fluorescence with ultraviolet excitation. Local invasion by an action potential elicits light emission (microflashes) from these sources with a coupling latency of about 2 milliseconds. Magnitudes of the microflash vary directly with the dimensions of the source. Time courses of the microflash resemble that of the macroflash emitted by the whole cell but have somewhat shorter time constants. The small discrepancy induration between micro- and macroflash can be explained by the 5- to 10-millisecond asynchrony of microsource triggering that results from the conduction time of the action potential. Reversible gradations in amplitude of the macroflash, as from potentiation or fatigue, result from parallel summation of graded changes in microflash intensity. Thus the macroflash gives a reasonably true picture of the subcellular kinetics of luminescence.