Biophoton emissions from cell cultures: biochemical evidence for the plasma membrane as the primary source

Gen Physiol Biophys. 2011 Sep;30(3):301-9. doi: 10.4149/gpb_2011_03_301.


Photon emissions were measured at ambient temperature (21°C) in complete darkness once per min from cultures of 10(6) cells during the 12 h following removal from 37°C. The energy of emission was about 10(-20) J/s/cell. Of 8 different cell lines, B16-BL6 (mouse melanoma cells) demonstrated the most conspicuous emission profile. Acridine orange and ethidium bromide indicated the membranes were intact with no indication of (trypan blue) cell necrosis. Treatments with EGF and ionomycin produced rapid early (first 3 h) increases in energy emission while glutamine-free, sodium azide and wortmanin-treated cells showed a general diminishment 3 to 9 h later. The results suggested the most probable origin of the photon emission was the plasma cell membrane. Measures from cells synchronized at the M- and S-phase supported this inference.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysics / methods
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cyclosporine / pharmacology
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology
  • Maleimides / pharmacology
  • Melanoma, Experimental
  • Mice
  • Photons
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors


  • Indoles
  • Maleimides
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • Cyclosporine
  • bisindolylmaleimide