Multiphoton-excited visible emission by serotonin solutions

Photochem Photobiol. 1997 Jun;65(6):931-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-1097.1997.tb07950.x.


Nonlinear excitation of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5HT) in aqueous solution is shown to generate a blue-green-emitting photoproduct in addition to UV fluorescence characteristic of native 5HT. The visible emission rate in diffusional steady-state measurements scales as the sixth power of excitation intensity, demonstrating that absorption of six near-IR photons is required to generate emission of one visible photon. Transient measurements reveal that this process is composed of two sequential nonlinear steps, the first excited by four photons and the second by two photons. These results, in combination with measurements of multiphoton-excited serotonin UV fluorescence, support a model in which 5HT is photochemically transformed as a consequence of four-photon absorption (Etot approximately 6 eV) to a photoproduct that then emits in the visible region via two-photon excitation. A minimum bound of approximately 10(-51) cm4 s photon-1 is observed for the two-photon emission action cross section at 830 nm. Photoionization, rather than reaction with a dissolved oxygen species, appears to be the primary mechanism for generation of the blue-green-emitting photoproduct. The peak intensities required to generate significant blue-green emission (approximately 5 x 10(11) W cm-2 from 80 MHz 150 fs titanium: sapphire laser pulses) are approximately five-fold higher than are typically used in two-photon laser scanning microscopy but are still substantially lower than the estimated intensity needed to induce dielectric breakdown of water.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion
  • Photons*
  • Serotonin / chemistry
  • Serotonin / radiation effects*
  • Solutions
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet


  • Solutions
  • Serotonin