Luciferase fragment complementation imaging in preclinical cancer studies

Madryn C. Lake1 and Eric O. Aboagye1

1 Comprehensive Cancer Imaging Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London


Eric O. Aboagye, email:

Keywords: Luciferase, Imaging, Cancer

Received: May 12, 2014 Accepted: May 31, 2014 Published: June 1, 2014


The luciferase fragment complementation assay (LFCA) enables molecular events to be non-invasively imaged in live cells in vitro and in vivo in a comparatively cheap and safe manner. It is a development of previous enzyme complementation assays in which reporter genes are split into two, individually enzymatically inactive, fragments that are able to complement one another upon interaction. This complementation can be used to externally visualize cellular activities.

In recent years, the number of studies which have used LFCAs to probe questions relevant to cancer have increased, and this review summarizes the most significant and interesting of these. In particular, it focuses on work conducted on the epidermal growth factor, nuclear and chemokine receptor families, and intracellular signaling pathways, including IP3, cAMP, Akt, cMyc, NRF2 and Rho GTPases. LFCAs which have been developed to image DNA methylation and detect RNA transcripts are also discussed.

PII: 45