Abstract— Little is directly known about the influence of the local environment experienced by a photosensitizer in a biological system on its photophysics and photochemistry. In this paper, we have addressed this issue by correlating mechanistic studies using laser flash photolysis with cellular phototoxicity data, obtained under the same experimental conditions. In particular, we have focused on the interaction between local concentrations of photosensitizer (deuteroporphyrin) and oxygen in determining the mechanism of phototoxicity in L1210 cells. In cells, as well as in models such as liposomes and red blood cell ghosts, hypochromicity and a reduction in fluorescence and intersystem crossing yields are observed on increasing the photosensitizer concentration between 0.5 and 20 μM, which illustrates the onset of a self-association. In aerated cellular preparations, the phototoxicity is predominantly type II (singlet oxygen) for all concentrations studied but an oxygen-independent mechanism occurs at the higher concentrations in deaerated samples. These observations are readily explained by consideration of triplet state kinetics as a function of oxygen and photosensitizer concentrations in cells. The rate constant for quenching of the photosensitizer triplet state by oxygen in cells was measured as 6.6 × 108 M−1 s−1 and by photosensitizer ground state as -106M−1s−1 (in terms of local concentration). The latter reaction gave rise to a long-lived species that is presumably responsible for the oxygen-independent phototoxicity observed at the higher photosensitizer concentrations used. This self-quenching of the triplet state is postulated to arise from electron transfer resulting in radical ion formation. Under conditions where no self-quenching contributes, the phototoxicity measured as a function of oxygen concentration correlates well with a model based on the determined kinetic parameters, thus, unambiguously proving the intermediacy of singlet oxygen. These effects should be borne in mind when interpreting phototoxicity mechanisms from in vitro cell studies. The excellent correlation achieved between laser flash photolysis data and measured phototoxicity gives credence to the direct use of photophysical techniques to elucidate photochemical mechanisms in biological media.