- Phosphorus (P) is widely considered to be the main nutrient limiting the productivity of freshwater phytoplankton, but an assessment of its bioavailability in natural samples is highly complex. In an attempt to provide a novel tool for this purpose, the promoter of the alkaline phosphatase gene, phoA , from Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942 was fused to the luxAB luciferase genes of the bioluminescent bacterium Vibrio harveyi. The resulting construct was introduced into a neutral site on the Synechococcus sp. PCC 7942 genome to yield strain APL, which emitted light when inorganic P concentrations fell below 2.3 � M. Light emission of P-deprived cells decreased rapidly upon inorganic P readdition. The reporter was demonstrated to be a sensitive tool for monitoring the bioavailability of both inorganic and organic P sources. In water samples taken from a natural freshwater environment (Lake Kinneret, Israel), the luminescence measured correlated with total dissolved phosphate concentrations.