Bactericidal Activity of Photocatalytic TiO2 Reaction: Toward an Understanding of Its Killing Mechanism

Pin Ching Maness, Sharon Smolinski, Daniel M. Blake, Zheng Huang, Edward J. Wolfrum, William A. Jacoby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1320 Scopus Citations


When titanium dioxide (TiO2) is irradiated with near-UV light, this semiconductor exhibits strong bactericidal activity. In this paper, we present the first evidence that the lipid peroxidation reaction is the underlying mechanism of death of Escherichia coli K-12 cells that are irradiated in the presence of the TiO2 photocatalyst. Using production of malondialdehyde (MDA) as an index to assess cell membrane damage by lipid peroxidation, we observed that there was an exponential increase in the production of MDA, whose concentration reached 1.1 to 2.4 nmol · mg (dry weight) of cells-1 after 30 min of illumination, and that the kinetics of this process paralleled cell death. Under these conditions, concomitant losses of 77 to 93% of the cell respiratory activity were also detected, as measured by both oxygen uptake and reduction of 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride from succinate as the electron donor. The occurrence of lipid peroxidation and the simultaneous losses of both membrane-dependent respiratory activity and cell viability depended strictly on the presence of both light and TiO2. We concluded that TiO2 photocatalysis promoted peroxidation of the polyunsaturated phospholipid component of the lipid membrane initially and induced major disorder in the E. coli cell membrane. Subsequently, essential functions that rely on intact cell membrane architecture, such as respiratory activity, were lost, and cell death was inevitable.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4094-4098
Number of pages5
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1999

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-590-27876


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