Photodynamic inactivation of recombinant bioluminescent Escherichia coli by cationic porphyrins under artificial and solar irradiation

  • Eliana Alves
  • Carla M. B. Carvalho
  • João P. C. Tomé
  • Maria A. F. Faustino
  • Maria G. P. M. S. Neves
  • Augusto C. Tomé
  • José A. S. Cavaleiro
  • Ângela Cunha
  • Sónia Mendo
  • Adelaide Almeida
Original Paper


A faster and simpler method to monitor the photoinactivation process of Escherichia coli involving the use of recombinant bioluminescent bacteria is described here. Escherichia coli cells were transformed with luxCDABE genes from the marine bioluminescent bacterium Vibrio fischeri and the recombinant bioluminescent indicator strain was used to assess, in real time, the effect of three cationic meso-substituted porphyrin derivatives on their metabolic activity, under artificial (40 W m−2) and solar irradiation (≈620 W m−2). The photoinactivation of bioluminescent E. coli is effective (>4 log bioluminescence decrease) with the three porphyrins used, the tricationic porphyrin Tri-Py+-Me-PF being the most efficient compound. The photoinactivation process is efficient both with solar and artificial light, for the three porphyrins tested. The results show that bioluminescence analysis is an efficient and sensitive approach being, in addition, more affordable, faster, cheaper and much less laborious than conventional methods. This approach can be used as a screening method for bacterial photoinactivation studies in vitro and also for the monitoring of the efficiency of novel photosensitizer molecules. As far as we know, this is the first study involving the use of bioluminescent bacteria to monitor the antibacterial activity of porphyrins under environmental conditions.


Cationic porphyrins Photodynamic antimicrobial therapy Bioluminescence Escherichia coli Solar irradiation 



We are grateful to Professor James Slock (King’s College, EUA) for kindly providing E.coli strain with plasmid pHK555 and also plasmid pHK724. Thanks are due to the University of Aveiro, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) and FEDER for funding the Organic Chemistry Research Unit (QOPNA) and the project POCI/CTM/58183/2004. To CESAM (Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar) for funding the Microbiology Research Group. C. M. B. Carvalho and J. P. Tomé are also grateful to FCT for their grants.


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eliana Alves
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carla M. B. Carvalho
    • 1
    • 3
  • João P. C. Tomé
    • 3
  • Maria A. F. Faustino
    • 3
  • Maria G. P. M. S. Neves
    • 3
  • Augusto C. Tomé
    • 3
  • José A. S. Cavaleiro
    • 3
  • Ângela Cunha
    • 1
  • Sónia Mendo
    • 1
  • Adelaide Almeida
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, CESAMUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.School of Health TechnologyPorto Polytechnic InstitutePortoPortugal
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry, QOPNAUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal

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