Primary and secondary mechanisms of action of visible to near-IR radiation on cells

J Photochem Photobiol B. 1999 Mar;49(1):1-17. doi: 10.1016/S1011-1344(98)00219-X.


Cytochrome c oxidase is discussed as a possible photoacceptor when cells are irradiated with monochromatic red to near-IR radiation. Four primary action mechanisms are reviewed: changes in the redox properties of the respiratory chain components following photoexcitation of their electronic states, generation of singlet oxygen, localized transient heating of absorbing chromophores, and increased superoxide anion production with subsequent increase in concentration of the product of its dismutation, H2O2. A cascade of reactions connected with alteration in cellular homeostasis parameters (pHi, [Cai], cAMP, Eh, [ATP] and some others) is considered as a photosignal transduction and amplification chain in a cell (secondary mechanisms).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells / radiation effects*
  • Homeostasis / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays*
  • Light*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Photochemistry
  • Singlet Oxygen
  • Superoxides / metabolism


  • Superoxides
  • Singlet Oxygen
  • Oxygen