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Bioluminescent copepods are often the most abundant marine zooplankton and play critical roles in oceanic food webs. Metridia copepods exhibit particularly bright bioluminescence, and the molecular basis of their light production has just recently begun to be explored. Here we add to this body of work by transcriptomically profiling Metridia lucens, a common species found in temperate, northern, and southern latitudes. In this previously molecularly-uncharacterized species, we find the typical luciferase paralog gene set found in Metridia. More surprisingly, we recover noteworthy putative luciferase sequences that had not been described from Metridia species, indicating that bioluminescence produced by these copepods may be more complex than previously known. This includes another copepod luciferase, as well as one from a shrimp. Furthermore, feeding experiments using mass spectrometry and 13C labelled L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine firmly establish that M. lucens produces its own coelenterazine luciferin rather than acquiring it through diet. This coelenterazine synthesis has only been directly confirmed in one other copepod species.


This article was originally published in PeerJ, available at DOI: 10.7717/peerj.5506.

This article was distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 License.



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