Photostress has to be considered during optical micromanipulation of gametes. Ultraviolet light, including low-energy UVA (32-400 nm) radiation, as well as high-intensity near infrared (NIR) laser radiation may induce cell damage. A total number of 580 light-exposed sperm cells were studied in single-cell photostress experiments. Low-power (1.5 mW, 5.3 W/cm2) UVA exposure with 365 nm radiation of a standard mercury microscopy lamp to human spermatozoa resulted within 109 +/- 30 s in paralysis and within 310 +/- 110 s in cell death. Cytotoxic effects during cell manipulation with laser microbeams were found to be partly based on non-linear excitation phenomena, in particular two-photon absorption by endogenous cell chromophores. Two-photon absorption will be more intense in the case of pulsed laser microradiation, but occur also during micromanipulation with highly focused continuous wave (cw) microbeams used as laser tweezers ('optical traps'). In particular, short-wavelength NIR traps < 800 nm induce UVA-like biological effects (oxidative stress). For example, sperm trapping with 760 nm microbeams resulted in UVA-like autofluorescence modifications, paralysis within 35 +/- 20 s and cell death within 65 +/- 20 s. In contrast, laser microbeams at 800-1064 nm may act as relatively safe micromanipulation tools. In most optical traps multifrequency cw lasers are employed. Radiation of these lasers can magnify cytotoxic effects. Therefore, single-frequency laser operation should be preferred. In general, laser assisted cell micromanipulation requires a new understanding of microbeam-cell interaction, including aspects of non-linear optics.