Interaction of Graphene Oxide with Bacterial Cell Membranes: Insights from Force Spectroscopy

Santiago Romero-Vargas Castrillón, François Perreault, Andreia Fonseca de Faria, Menachem Elimelech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Understanding the interactions of graphene oxide (GO) with biological membranes is crucial for the evaluation of GO’s health and environmental impacts, its bactericidal activity, and to advance graphene-based biological and environmental applications. In an effort to understand graphene-induced bacterial inactivation, we studied the interaction of GO with bacterial (Escherichia coli) cell membranes using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Toward this goal, we devised a polydopamine-assisted experimental protocol to functionalize an AFM probe with GO nanosheets, and used AFM-based force spectroscopy to measure cell membrane–GO interaction forces. Our results show that GO–cell interactions are predominantly repulsive, with only sporadic adhesion forces being measured upon probe pull-off, which we attribute to lipopolysaccharide bridging. We provide evidence of the acellular oxidation of glutathione by GO, underscoring the role of oxidative pathways in GO-mediated bacterial cell inactivation. Our force spectroscopy results suggest that physicochemical interactions do not underlie the primary mode of action of GO in bacteria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112–117
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number4
Early online date30 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2015


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