Blue/violet laser inactivates methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus by altering its transmembrane potential

Gabriel Biener, Daniela S. Masson-Meyers, Violet V. Bumah, Grant Hussey, Michael R. Stoneman, Chukuka S. Enwemeka, Valerica Raicu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


The resistance of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to antibiotics presents serious clinical problems that prompted the need for finding alternative or combination therapies. One such therapy is irradiation with blue light. To determine the alterations in metabolic processes implicated in the observed antimicrobial effects of blue light, we investigated the changes in membrane potential and the presence of free-radical-producing photo-acceptor molecules. Bacterial cultures irradiated with one or two doses of 405nm laser light (each consisting of 121J/cm2) were imaged with spectrally resolved laser-scanning microscopes to detect endogenous fluorescent species as well as the voltage sensitive dye 3,3′-Diethyloxacarbocyanine iodide. The endogenous fluorescence indicated the presence of photosensitizers (i.e., porphyrins, NADH, FAD) in the cells, while the exogenous signal allowed us to monitor rapid changes in transmembrane potential following treatment with light. The changes were drastic within the first 5min after irradiation with the first dose and continued slowly after the second irradiation. These results suggest that the early antimicrobial activity of blue light results from alteration of membrane integrity with a consequent decrease in membrane polarization and rapid alteration of vital cellular functions. The observation of an early antimicrobial activity of light is very encouraging, as it suggests that treatment does not necessarily have to be administered over a long period of time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Blue light
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • Multispectral imaging
  • Porphyrin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging


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