The importance of porphyrins in blue light suppression of Streptococcus agalactiae

Violet Vakunseh Bumah, Brianna Nicole Morrow, Paulina Michelle Cortez, Chynna Rose Bowman, Paulina Rojas, Daniela Santos Masson-Meyers, James Suprapto, William G. Tong, Chukuka Samuel Enwemeka

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17 Citations (Scopus)


It is well documented that blue light absorption by bacterial chromophores triggers downstream production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which in turn results in bacterial cell death. To elucidate the importance of chromophores in the bactericidal effect of blue light, and to determine whether blue light absorption per se or the presence of porphyrins known to engender ROS is crucial in blue light treatment, we studied the effect of 450 nm pulsed light on Streptococcus agalactiae, also known as Group B Streptococcus (GBS) strain COH1. GBS does not synthesize porphyrins but has a blue light-absorbing chromophore, granadaene. We irradiated planktonic cultures of GBS with or without exogenous chromophore supplementation using either protoporphyrin IX (PPIX), coproporphyrin III (CPIII), Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), Flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), or Flavin mononucleotide (FMN). Quantification of surviving bacterial colonies, presented as percent survival and CFU/mL (log10), showed that (1) 450 nm blue light does not suppress the growth of GBS, even though its endogenous chromophore, granadaene, absorbs light in the 450 nm spectrum. (2) The addition of either of the two exogenous porphyrins, PPIX or CPIII, significantly suppressed GBS, indicating the importance of porphyrins in the antimicrobial action of blue light. (3) Adding exogenous FMN or FAD, two known absorbers of 450 nm light, minimally potentiated the bactericidal effect of blue light, again confirming that mere absorption of blue light by chromophores does not necessarily result in bacterial suppression. (4) Irradiation of GBS with or without NAD+ or NADH supplementation—two weak absorbers of 450 nm light—minimally suppressed GBS, indicating that a blue light-absorbing chromophore is essential for the bactericidal action of blue light. (5) Collectively, these findings show that in addition to the presence of a blue light-absorbing chromophore in bacteria, a chromophore with the right metabolic machinery and biochemical structure, capable of producing ROS, is necessary for 450 nm blue light to suppress GBS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111996
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial chromophores
  • Photobiomodulation
  • Pulsed blue light
  • Streptococcus agalactiae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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