The light emitted by Noctiluca has its origin in 1 to 5 x 104 organelles ("microsources") which are scattered throughout the perivacuolar cytoplasm, and which appear to be the elementary functional units of bioluminescence. Microscopical techniques, image intensification, and microphotometry were employed in their investigation. Microsources are fluorescent, strongly phase-retarding, and range widely in diameter below 1.5 microns. The number of quanta emitted in a flash from a microsource ("microflash") is of the order of 105 photons. However, microflashes show a wide range of intensities, which are correlated with the size of the organelles from which they arise. Each organelle responds repetitively and with reproducible time course to a succession of invading triggering potentials. Reversible changes in the intensity of the flash emitted by the whole cell ("macroflash") occur because of graduations in intensity of microflashes rather than as a result of changes in the number of responsive organelles. The shape of the flash emitted by individual microsources resembles that of the macroflash except for slightly shorter rise and decay times. It is concluded that the macroflash results from somewhat asynchronous, but otherwise parallel summation of microflashes.

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