Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology


Paul C. Mangelsdorf Professor of Natural Sciences, Emeritus

Email: hastings@fas.harvard.edu
Phone: 617-495-3714

Mail: BL 4070
The Biological Labs
16 Divinity Ave
Cambridge, MA  02138

Hastings Lab Homepage
Members of the Hastings Lab
List of Publications from PubMed


MCB 373. Cellular Biochemistry and Physiology
Catalog Number: 8053  View Course Website
Term: Fall Term; Repeated Spring Term 2013-2014.   Credit: Half course.
Instructor: J. Hastings
Course Level: Graduate Course
BIOPHYS 318. Mechanisms of Circadian Rhythms, Bioluminescence
Catalog Number: 4699  View Course Website
Term: Fall Term; Repeated Spring Term 2013-2014.   Credit: Half course.
Instructor: J. Hastings
Course Level: Graduate Course
(View all MCB Courses)


BIOLUMINESCENCE , namely the ability to emit light, is a remarkable example of convergent evolution. It has originated and evolved independently many times in many different organisms; the different systems are thus biochemically distinct and have many diverse functions. Studies with luminous bacteria led to the discovery of autoinduction, now referred to as quorum sensing. Studies with coelenterate bioluminescence led to the first discovery of an accessory emitter in bioluminescence, green fluoresent protein (GFP). Research in my laboratory is now concerned with the structure, organization and regulation of genes associated with both dipteran and dinoflagellate luminescence systems, as well as the structures of the luciferins and luciferases. CIRCADIAN (daily) CONTROL represents a very fundamental yet still very poorly understood feature of higher organisms. Jet lag is a symptom of the disruption of our circadian system. Most organisms--as well as individual eukaryotic cells and some bacteria--possess a temporal control mechanism over many biochemical and physiological processes. Our research is concerned with the basic molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for these rhythms in the unicellular bioluminescent dinoflagellate Gonyaulax polyedra, where we have shown that the rhythm of bioluminescence involves a daily synthesis and destruction of proteins, and that inhibitors of protein synthesis can reset the phase. While the amounts of these proteins increase and decrease by a factor of 10 on a daily basis, the mRNAs for these proteins remain at the same level day and night. Synthesis is thus controlled at the translational level, a feature so far unique to this system.


Hastings J.W. (2007) The Gonyaulax clock at 50: translational control of circadian expression. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 72:141-4

Liu, L. and Hastings, J. W. (2007) Two different domains of the luciferase gene in the heterotrophic dinoflagellate Noctiluca miliaris occur as two separate genes in photosynthetic species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104:696-701

Hastings, J.W. and Morin, J.G. (2006) Photons for reporting molecular events: green fluorescent protein and four luciferase systems. Methods Biochem Anal. 47:15-38

Nealson, K. H. and Hastings, J. W. (2006) Quorum sensing on a global scale: massive numbers of bioluminescent bacteria make milky seas. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 72:2295-2297

Liu, L. and Hastings, J. W. (2006) Novel and rapidly diverging intergenic sequences between tandem repeats of the luciferase genes in seven dinoflagellate species. J. Phycology 42:96-103

Schultz, W., Liu, L., Cegielski, M., and Hastings, J. W. (2005) Crystal structure of a pH-regulated luciferase catalyzing the bioluminescent oxidation of open tetrapyrrole. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102:1378-1383

Liu, L., Wilson, T. and Hastings, J. W. (2004) Molecular evolution of dinoflagellate luciferases, enzymes with three catalytic domains in a single polypeptide. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101:16555-16560

Okamoto, O. K. and Hastings, J. W. (2003) Novel dinoflagellate circadian-clock genes identified through microarray analysis of a phase shifted clock. J. Phycol., 39: 519-526.

Comolli, J., Fagan, T. F. and Hastings, J. W. (2003) A type-1 phosphoprotein phosphatase from a dinoflagellate as a possible component of the circadian mechanism. J. Biol. Rhythms 18:367-376

Fagan, T.F. & Hastings, J. W.(2002) Phylogenetic analysis indicates multiple origins of chloroplast glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase genes in dinoflagellates. Mol. Biol. Evol. 19: 1203-07.

Viviani, V. R., Hastings, J. W. and Wilson, T. (2002) Two bioluminescent Diptera: the North American Orfelia fultoni and the Australian Arachnocampa flava. Similar niche, different bioluminescence systems. Photochem. Photobiol. 75: 22-27.

Okamoto, O. K., Liu, Liyun, Robertson, D. L. and Hastings, J. W. (2001) Members of a Dinoflagellate Luciferase Gene Family Differ in Synonymous Substitution Rates. Biochemistry 40: 15862-15868.

Hastings, J.W. (2001)Bioluminescence. (N. Sperelakis, ed.), In: Cell Physiology, 3rd Edition, Academic Press, NY., pp 1115-1131.

Hastings, J. W. and Greenberg, E. P. (1999) Quorum Sensing: The explanation of a curious phenomenon reveals a common characteristic of bacteria. J . Bacteriol. 181: 2667-2668.

Comolli, James and Hastings J. W. (1999) Novel Effects on The Gonyaulax Circadian System Produced by the Protein Kinase Inhibitor Staurosporine. J. Biol. Rhythms 14: 10-18.

Fagan, Thomas, Morse, David and Hastings, J. W. (1999) Circadian synthesis of a nuclear-encoded chloroplast glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase in the dinoflagellate Gonyaulax polyedra is translationally controlled. Biochemistry 38: 7689-7695.

Wilson, T. & Hastings, J.W. (1998) BioluminescenceAnnu. Rev. Cell Devel. Biol. 14: 197-230.

Li, Liming, Hong, R. and Hastings, J. W. (1997) Three functional luciferase domains in a single polypeptide chain. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 94: 8954-8958.

updated: 04/22/2014