Synergistic effects of polymyxin and ionic liquids on lipid vesicle membrane stability and aggregation

Sylvia L. Hanna, Jenny L. Huang, Alana J. Swinton, Gregory A. Caputo, Timothy D. Vaden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Ionic liquids (ILs) have been investigated for potential antibacterial and antibiotic applications due to their ability to destabilize and permeabilize the lipid bilayers in cell membranes. Bacterial assays have shown that combining ILs with antibiotics can provide a synergistic enhancement of their antibacterial activities. We have characterized the mechanism by which the conventional ILs 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride (BMICl) and 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate (BMIBF4) enhance the lipid membrane permeabilization of the well-known antibiotic polymyxin B (PMB). We studied the sizes and membrane permeabilities of multilamellar and unilamellar lipid bilayer vesicles in the presence of ILs alone in aqueous solution, PMB alone, and ILs combined together with PMB. Light scattering-based experiments show that vesicle sizes dramatically increase when ILs are combined with PMB, which suggests that the materials combine to synergistically enhance lipid membrane disruption leading to vesicle aggregation. Lipid bilayer leakage experiments using tris (2,2′-bipyridyl) ruthenium (II) (Ru(bpy)32 +) trapped in lipid vesicles, in which the trapped Ru(bpy)32 + fluorescence lifetime increases when it leaks out of the vesicle, show that combining BMIBF4 and PMB together permeabilize the membrane significantly more than with PMB or the IL alone. This demonstrates that ILs can assist in antibiotic permeabilization of lipid bilayers which could explain the increased antibiotic activities in the presence of ILs in solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalBiophysical Chemistry
StatePublished - Aug 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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