Sequence and Dispersity Are Determinants of Photodynamic Antibacterial Activity Exerted by Peptidomimetic Oligo(thiophene)s

Zhe Zhou, Cansu Ergene, Joshua Y. Lee, David J. Shirley, Benjamin R. Carone, Gregory A. Caputo, Edmund F. Palermo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


A library of functionalized oligo(thiophene)s with precisely controlled chain length, regioregularity, sequence, and pendant moieties in the side chains was prepared by iterative convergent/divergent organometallic couplings. The cationic and facially amphiphilic structures were designed to mimic the salient physiochemical features of host defense peptides (HDPs) while concurrently exerting a photodynamic mechanism of antibacterial activity. In the dark, the oligothiophenes exert broad-spectrum and rapid bactericidal activity in the micromolar regime, which is the typical range of HDP activity. Under visible light, the antibacterial potency is enhanced by orders of magnitude, leading to potency in the nanomolar concentration range, whereas the toxicity to red blood cells (RBCs) is almost unaffected by the same visible light exposure. We attribute the potent and selective antibacterial activity to a dual mechanism of action that involves bacterial cell binding, combined with reactive oxygen species production in the bound state. Comonomer sequence and chain length dispersity play important roles in dictating the observed biological activities. The most promising candidate compound from a set of screening experiments showed antibacterial activity that is 3 orders of magnitude more potent against bacteria relative to toxicity against RBCs. Importantly, this compound did not induce resistance upon 21 subinhibitory passages, whereas the activity of ciprofloxacin was reduced 32× in the same condition. Cytotoxicity against HeLa cells in vitro is orders of magnitude weaker than antibacterial activity under visible light illumination. Thus, we have established a new class of HDP-mimetic antibacterial compounds with nanomolar activity and cell type selectivity of greater than 1300-fold. These and related compounds may be highly promising candidates in the urgent search for new topical photodynamic antibacterial formulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1896-1906
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science


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