Scientists find firefly 'switch'
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2001
(BBC) Scientists have found the "switch" that allows a firefly to light up its body. The beetle flashes the "lantern" on its abdomen to attract a mate. Researchers have long understood how the light is generated but the control mechanism used by the insect has been a mystery.
Now, a US team has been able to show that the simple molecule nitric oxide (NO) acts as the on-off "button".
It is just one more example of the prominent role played by NO in biochemistry. In humans, the molecule is crucial to the dilation of blood vessels and the signalling that goes on between neurons in the brain.
Its part in assisting men achieve erection has been exploited by the modern impotence drugs like Viagra. More
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