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

163 Scopus citations


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 (US)
Pages (from-to)112-117
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 14 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Chemical Society.


Dive into the research topics of 'Interaction of graphene oxide with bacterial cell membranes: Insights from force spectroscopy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this