Bacteriophage T1 was suspended in distilled water and in phosphate buffer, saturated with oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide, and irradiated with gamma rays and x-rays. Under the same conditions phage was exposed to hydrogen peroxide.
Oxygen acted as a protective agent against both irradiation and hydrogen peroxide inactivation. As a protective agent against irradiation, oxygen was more efficient in distilled water than in buffer. The phage was much more sensitive to irradiation in the presence of hydrogen or nitrogen than in the presence of oxygen. Survivals of phage irradiated in suspensions saturated with hydrogen and with nitrogen did not differ significantly. From this it was concluded that oxygen did not protect T1 by removing atomic hydrogen from the irradiated medium, since the hydrogen-saturated medium increased the yield of atomic hydrogen but did not increase the yield of inactivated phage. It was presumed, therefore, that phage is sensitive to OH radicals and this was confirmed by irradiating phage with UV in the presence of hydrogen peroxide and comparing this survival with the survivals obtained from hydrogen peroxide alone and from UV alone. The combined effect of hydrogen peroxide and UV acting simultaneously was greater than the effect attributable to hydrogen peroxide and UV acting separately.
Evidence for sensitivity to HO2 radicals was considered, and the effect was attributed chiefly to an oxidizing action since phage sensitivity is greater at higher hydrogen ion concentrations, which favor oxidation by HO2 radicals.
Since the OH radical is a more efficient oxidizing agent than O-, the former being favored in an acid medium, the latter in an alkaline medium, and since the phage is more sensitive in the first situation than in the second, the present tests proved the importance of oxidation as the mechanism of inactivation. Since some inactivation was encountered when phage was exposed to reducing agents, independently of irradiation, it was concluded that phage is somewhat sensitive to reducing agents, but the inactivation attributable to ionizing radiations is due chiefly to oxidation, against which these reducing agents are very efficient protectors.
Under no circumstances did hydrogen peroxide protect T1, whether produced by irradiation in the medium or added beforehand to the medium to be irradiated. The first point was investigated by irradiating T1 in the presence of hydrogen and oxygen combined; this produced a higher yield of hydrogen peroxide but a lower survival of T1. In all these tests phage survival under irradiation was directly correlated with oxygen content of the medium rather than with production of hydrogen peroxide. It is proposed that the protective effect of oxygen is due to a reaction between the phage and oxygen, and this complex confers stability upon the phage.