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Two dimensional molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) nanosheets have recently gained wide recognition for their efficient broad-spectrum antibacterial activity complemented with great biocompatibility and minimal bacterial resistance inducing capabilities. However, despite the numerous investigations, the molecular level interactions at the nano-bio interface responsible for their bactericidal activity remain obscure. Herein, through an atomistic molecular dynamics study, we attempt to seek an in-depth understanding of the atomic level details of the underlying mechanism of their antibacterial action against the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterial membrane. Our study reveals a two-step MoS2 nanosheet interaction pathway with the bacterial membrane. The nanosheets spontaneously adhere to the membrane surface and prompt vigorous phospholipid extraction majorly via strong van der Waals interactions with lipid hydrophobic tails. The lipid extraction process originates a significant water intrusion in the bilayer hydrophobic region, signifying the onset of cytoplasmic leakage under realistic conditions. Further, a synergistic effect of lipid-lipid self-interactions and lipid-MoS2 dispersion interactions drags the nanosheet to completely immerse in the bilayer hydrophobic core. The embedded nanosheets induce a layerwise structural rearrangement of the membrane lipids in their vicinity, thus altering the structural and dynamic features of the membrane in a localized manner by (i) increasing the lipid fatty acyl tail ordering and (ii) alleviating the lipid lateral dynamics. The detrimental efficacy of the nanosheets can be magnified by enlarging the nanosheet size or by increasing the nanosheet concentration. Our study concludes that the MoS2 nanosheets can exhibit their antibacterial action through destructive phospholipid extraction as well as by altering the morphology of the membrane by embedding in the membrane core.


Monika Kumari, Hemant K Kashyap. MoS2 nanosheet induced destructive alterations in the Escherichia coli bacterial membrane. Soft matter. 2022 Sep 28;18(37):7159-7170

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PMID: 36097850

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