Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis, is a growing problem worldwide due to the emergence of multi-drug resistant and extensively-drug resistant strains of the bacteria. A key to combatting the spread of these strains lies in the understanding of gene expression occurring in Mtb. This study focuses on the development and optimization of a luciferase-based bioluminescent transcriptional reporter that can be used to monitor gene expression in Mtb. The luminescent signal emitted from the reporter can be measured and correlated with the level of transcription of certain genes. This study focuses specifically on a gene called whiB7 which encodes a transcription factor known to contribute to the drug resistance of Mtb. The drug-inducible whiB7 promoter was cloned into various locations in the luciferase plasmid in order to determine the ideal configuration of the reporter for maximum luminescence. The optimized luciferase reporter was then compared with a fluorescent transcriptional reporter, mCherry, also under control of the whiB7 promoter. Fluorescent reporters present some disadvantages including delayed kinetics and inability to accurately reflect gene downregulation due to long half-life of reporter proteins. It was hypothesized that the luciferase reporter would solve these problems by offering a more sensitive and dynamic tool to monitor gene expression. Quantitative real-time PCR was used to measure whiB7 mRNA present in cultures containing either the luciferase or mCherry reporters. The luminescent and fluorescent signal given from these reporters was then compared to actual mRNA expression. It was observed that the signal from the luciferase reporter more closely matched mRNA expression at each timepoint, indicating that the luciferase reporter is a better gauge of actual gene expression levels than the mCherry reporter.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Rohde, Kyle


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Biomedical Sciences



Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

3 years

Release Date