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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Dec 6, 1994; 91(25): 12273–12277.

Chemiluminescent activation of the antiviral activity of hypericin: a molecular flashlight.


Hypericin is a naturally occurring photosensitizer that displays potent antiviral activity in the presence of light. The absence of light in many regions of the body may preclude the use of hypericin and other photosensitizers as therapeutic compounds for the treatment of viral infections in vivo. The chemiluminescent oxidation of luciferin by the luciferase from the North American firefly Photinus pyralis was found to generate sufficiently intense and long-lived emission to induce antiviral activity of hypericin. Light-induced virucidal activity of hypericin was demonstrated against equine infectious anemia virus, a lentivirus structurally, genetically, and antigenically related to the human immunodeficiency virus. The implications for exploiting chemiluminescence as a "molecular flashlight" for effecting photodynamic therapy against virus-infected cells and tumor cells are discussed.

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