Luminous bacteria and light emitting fish: Ultrastructure of the symbiosis

Bradley M. Tebo, D. Scott Linthicum, Kenneth H. Nealson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The luminescent fish Monocentris japonicus uses symbiotic luminous bacteria as a source of light. These bacteria live in light organs, complex tissue compartments, consisting of richly vascularized tubules or canals (in which the bacteria are cultured) lined with mitochondria-rich epithelial cells. The structure is consistent with a proposed model of symbiosis in which nutrients and oxygen are supplied by the vertebrate blood (vascular system). The nutrients, oxidized by the bacteria for growth and light production, are returned in part to the fish as pyruvate, which by reacting with mitochondrial oxygen regulates the light organ oxygen tensions. The luminous bacteria provide steady light that is modulated by passage through the melanocyte-containing dermis of the fish. Both the fish and the bacteria are highly adapted for their symbiotic coexistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-280
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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