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Abstract The lysis of phosphatidylcholine (PC) liposomes was sensitized to visible light (>500nm) by hematoporphyrin (HP) incorporated in the liposomes (0.09-1.5%, wt/wt) or in the external buffer (1-15 μM). The lytic mechanism changed from the Type II pathway mediated by singlet oxygen (1O2) at low HP concentrations to the anoxic, Type I pathway at high HP concentrations. Spectral measurements of HP in aqueous and organic solvents indicate that the HP was not aggregated (monomers and/or dimers) for Type II sensitization and aggregated for Type I conditions. High concentrations of azide (>0.1 M) or DABCO (>0.5 M) were protective with high HP concentration under oxic and anoxic conditions, which cannot involve the scavenging of 1O2. Feasible protective mechanisms are quenching of the HP triplet state by high azide and repair of the damaged membrane by DABCO via an electron transfer process. There was significant protection against lysis under Type I conditions by low concentrations of ferricyanide (>1 mM), indicative of an electron transfer mechanism. The incorporation of 22 mol % cholesterol in PC liposomes with 1% HP had no effect on the lytic efficiency for oxic and anoxic conditions. Dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine liposomes incorporating 1% HP showed negligible photosensitized lysis at 50°C compared with PC liposomes with 1% HP at 25°C. The promotion of photosensitized lysis by hydrodynamic agitation observed in prior work with methylene blue (Grossweiner and Grossweiner, 1982) was significant with HP sensitization for both Type I and Type II conditions. Actinometry with PC liposomes incorporating 1% HP indicated that photosensitized lysis was very inefficient, requiring many absorbed quanta per lysed liposome. Preliminary experiments with crude hematoporphyrin derivative (Hpd) showed similar concentration effects on lytic efficiency, where PC liposomes incorporating 0.1% (wt/wt) Hpd were strongly sensitized by oxygen, whereas sensitization by oxygen was insignificant with 3.1% Hpd. The results with HP and crude Hpd indicate that lytic damage in a biomembrane does not necessarily require oxygenation.