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Biophys J. 1999 Nov;77(5):2856-63.

Characterization of photodamage to Escherichia coli in optical traps.

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  • 1Department of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.

Abstract

Optical tweezers (infrared laser-based optical traps) have emerged as a powerful tool in molecular and cell biology. However, their usefulness has been limited, particularly in vivo, by the potential for damage to specimens resulting from the trapping laser. Relatively little is known about the origin of this phenomenon. Here we employed a wavelength-tunable optical trap in which the microscope objective transmission was fully characterized throughout the near infrared, in conjunction with a sensitive, rotating bacterial cell assay. Single cells of Escherichia coli were tethered to a glass coverslip by means of a single flagellum: such cells rotate at rates proportional to their transmembrane proton potential (Manson et al.,1980. J. Mol. Biol. 138:541-561). Monitoring the rotation rates of cells subjected to laser illumination permits a rapid and quantitative measure of their metabolic state. Employing this assay, we characterized photodamage throughout the near-infrared region favored for optical trapping (790-1064 nm). The action spectrum for photodamage exhibits minima at 830 and 970 nm, and maxima at 870 and 930 nm. Damage was reduced to background levels under anaerobic conditions, implicating oxygen in the photodamage pathway. The intensity dependence for photodamage was linear, supporting a single-photon process. These findings may help guide the selection of lasers and experimental protocols best suited for optical trapping work.

PMID:
10545383
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1300557
Free PMC Article
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