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Biophys J. 2002 Apr;82(4):2224-31.

Stress response in Caenorhabditis elegans caused by optical tweezers: wavelength, power, and time dependence.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Physics, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden.


Optical tweezers have emerged as a powerful technique for micromanipulation of living cells. Although the technique often has been claimed to be nonintrusive, evidence has appeared that this is not always the case. This work presents evidence that near-infrared continuous-wave laser light from optical tweezers can produce stress in Caenorhabditis elegans. A transgenic strain of C. elegans, carrying an integrated heat-shock-responsive reporter gene, has been exposed to laser light under a variety of illumination conditions. It was found that gene expression was most often induced by light of 760 nm, and least by 810 nm. The stress response increased with laser power and irradiation time. At 810 nm, significant gene expression could be observed at 360 mW of illumination, which is more than one order of magnitude above that normally used in optical tweezers. In the 700-760-nm range, the results show that the stress response is caused by photochemical processes, whereas at 810 nm, it mainly has a photothermal origin. These results give further evidence that the 700-760-nm wavelength region is unsuitable for optical tweezers and suggest that work at 810 nm at normal laser powers does not cause stress at the cellular level.

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