Predicting the effects of polychromatic light on biological systems is a central goal of environmental photobiology. If the dose–response function for a process is a linear function of the light incident on a system at each wavelength within the spectrum, the effect of a polychromatic spectrum is obtained by integrating the product of the cross section for the reaction at each wavelength and the spectral irradiance at that wavelength over both wavelength and time. This procedure cannot be used, however, if the dose–response functions for an effect are not linear functions of photon dose. Although many photochemical reactions are linear within the biologically relevant range of doses, many biological end points are not. I describe procedures for calculating the effects of polychromatic irradiations on systems that exhibit certain classes of dose–response functions, including power law responses typical of mutation induction and exponential dose–responses typical of cell survival. I also present an approach to predict the effects of polychromatic spectra on systems in which the ultraviolet components form pyrimidine dimers, and the longer-wavelength ultraviolet and visible components remove them by photoreactivation, thus generating complex dose–response functions for these coupled light–driven reactions.
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Vol. 76 • No. 2