Streaming plasmodia of Physarum polycephalum were irradiated with a microscope-mounted ruby laser and the resulting changes were recorded by cinemicrography or streak photographs. Some lesions were processed for electron microscopy. By varying the incident energy, three levels of response were detected. Two transient responses, a gelation briefly blocking streams and a more severe gelation with contraction, changed movement patterns but not organelle ultrastructure. At higher energies, a permanently coagulated lesion was rapidly segregated from normal and transiently altered cytoplasm by formation of new membranes. Within the coagulum, pigment granules were destroyed, membranes were disrupted, and cytoplasm was flocculent. Nuclei and mitochondria were compact in the center and swollen in a peripheral space left by contraction of the coagulum.
These changes are probably caused by heat produced by the interaction between the laser beam and the pigment granules of the plasmodium. Many of the changes seem to be secondary responses that follow the primary capture of energy during irradiation.