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Alkyl-imidazolium chloride ionic liquids (ILs) have been broadly studied for biochemical and biomedical technologies. They can permeabilize lipid bilayer membranes and have cytotoxic effects, which makes them targets for drug delivery biomaterials. We assessed the lipid-membrane permeabilities of ILs with increasing alkyl chain lengths from ethyl to octyl groups on large unilamellar vesicles using a trapped-fluorophore fluorescence lifetime-based leakage experiment. Only the most hydrophobic IL, with the octyl chain, permeabilizes vesicles, and the concentration required for permeabilization corresponds to its critical micelle concentration. To correlate the model vesicle studies with biological cells, we quantified the IL permeabilities and cytotoxicities on different cell lines including bacterial, yeast, and ovine blood cells. The IL permeabilities on vesicles strongly correlate with permeabilities and minimum inhibitory concentrations on biological cells. Despite exhibiting a broad range of lipid compositions, the ILs appear to have similar effects on the vesicles and cell membranes.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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Cook, K.; Tarnawsky, K.; Swinton, A.J.; Yang, D.D.; Senetra, A.S.; Caputo, G.A.; Carone, B.R.; Vaden, T.D. Correlating Lipid Membrane Permeabilities of Imidazolium Ionic Liquids with Their Cytotoxicities on Yeast, Bacterial, and Mammalian Cells. Biomolecules 2019, 9, 251.

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