Tetracyclines: Light-activated antibiotics?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Tetracyclines are well established antibiotics but show phototoxicity as a side effect. Antimicrobial photodynamic inactivation uses nontoxic dyes combined with harmless light to destroy microbial cells by reactive oxygen species. Tetracyclines (demeclocycline and doxycycline) can act as light-activated antibiotics by binding to bacterial cells and killing them only upon illumination. The remaining tetracyclines can prevent bacterial regrowth after illumination has ceased. Antimicrobial photodynamic inactivation can be potentiated by potassium iodide. Azide quenched the formation of iodine, but not hydrogen peroxide. Demeclotetracycline (but not doxycycline) iodinated tyrosine after light activation in the presence of potassium iodide. Bacteria are killed by photoactivation of tetracyclines in the absence of oxygen. Since topical tetracyclines are already used clinically, blue light activation may increase the bactericidal effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2427-2444
Number of pages18
JournalFuture Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • antimicrobial photodynamic inactivation
  • bacteria
  • photochemical mechanisms
  • potassium iodide
  • singlet oxygen
  • tetracyclines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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