NO to Night Lights

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Science  29 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5526, pp. 2393
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5526.2393i

The enchanting bursts of light that fireflies emit during courtship depend on a biochemical reaction that occurs in an abdominal light-producing organ, aptly named the lantern. Trimmer et al. (p. 2486; see the news story by Pennisi) report that regulation of the flash-producing reaction relies on both oxygen and the free-radical gas, nitric oxide (NO). NO is produced within the lantern and increases the flash rate and locomotion behavior in flies. Upon reaching the mitochondria, NO may alter respiration to increase the level of oxygen, which is known to be the immediate molecular trigger for light production.

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