Inactivation of enveloped virus by laser-driven protein aggregation

Shaw Wei D Tsen, Travis Chapa, Wandy Beatty, Kong-Thon Tsen, Dong Yu, Samuel Achilefua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Ultrafast lasers in the visible and near-infrared range have emerged as a potential new method for pathogen reduction of blood products and pharmaceuticals. However, the mechanism of enveloped virus inactivation by this method is unknown. We report the inactivation as well as the molecular and structural effects caused by visible (425 nm) femtosecond laser irradiation on murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV), an enveloped, double-stranded DNA virus. Our results show that laser irradiation (1) caused a 5-log reduction in MCMV titer, (2) did not cause significant changes to the global structure of MCMV virions including membrane and capsid, as assessed by electron microscopy, (3) produced no evidence of double-strand breaks or crosslinking in MCMV genomic DNA, and (4) caused selective aggregation of viral capsid and tegument proteins. We propose a model in which ultrafast laser irradiation induces partial unfolding of viral proteins by disrupting hydrogen bonds and/or hydrophobic interactions, leading to aggregation of closely associated viral proteins and inactivation of the virus. These results provide new insight into the inactivation of enveloped viruses by visible femtosecond lasers at the molecular level, and help pave the way for the development of a new ultrafast laser technology for pathogen reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number128002
JournalJournal of biomedical optics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Murine cytomegalovirus
  • Pathogen inactivation
  • Pathogen reduction
  • Ultrafast lasers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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