Boosting membrane interactions and antimicrobial effects of photocatalytic titanium dioxide nanoparticles by peptide coating.

18 October 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Photocatalytic nanoparticles offer antimicrobial effects under illumination due to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), capable of degrading bacterial membranes. ROS may, however, also degrade human cell membranes and trigger toxicity. Since antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) display excellent selectivity between human cells and bacteria, these may offer opportunities to effectively “target” coated nanoparticles to bacterial membranes for increased selectivity. Investigating this, photocatalytic TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs) were coated with the AMP LL-37, and ROS generation found by C11-BODIPY to be essentially unaffected after AMP coating. Furthermore, peptide-coated TiO2 NPs retained their positive -potential also after 1-2 h of UV illumination, showing peptide degradation to be sufficiently limited to allow peptide-mediated targeting. In line with this, quartz crystal microbalance measurements showed peptide coating to promote membrane binding of TiO2 NPs, particularly so for bacteria-like anionic and cholesterol-void membranes. As a result, membrane degradation during illumination was strongly promoted for such membranes, but not so for mammalian-like membranes. The mechanisms of these effects were elucidated by neutron reflectometry. Analogously, LL-37 coating promoted membrane rupture by TiO2 NPs for Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, but not for human monocytes. These findings demonstrate that AMP coating may selectively boost the antimicrobial effects of photocatalytic nanoparticles.


Antimicrobial peptide
lipid membrane
lipid oxidation


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