Photosensitization in Mammalian Cells

  • John D. Spikes


In general, the photobiologic responses of cells result from chemical changes produced by photons of electromagnetic radiation absorbed by certain molecules making up the cells. In some cases, the response results from an alteration of the molecule that absorbs the photons, for example, the inactivation of an enzyme molecule in a cell after the absorption of UVC photons. In contrast, many kinds of photobiologic responses involve the alteration of one type of molecule in the cell as a result of the absorption of photons by another type of molecule. Such phenomena, which occur by way of a number of different reaction mechanisms, are termed photosensitized reactions, and the molecule that absorbs the light is referred to as the photosensitizer (or sensitizer).1–8 Most types of cells are relatively insensitive to light and UVA radiation because the bulk of the molecules in cells do not absorb these wavelengths strongly. However, in the presence of an appropriate sensitizer that absorbs in this range, cells can be injured and killed when illuminated. This phenomenon was discovered at the end of the last century by Raab,1 who found that paramecia were rapidly killed when exposed to light in the presence of certain acridines that, at the low concentrations used, had no deleterious effects on the cells in the dark.


Singlet Oxygen Sister Chromatid Exchange Photodynamic Action Photosensitize Reaction Photodynamic Effect 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. Spikes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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