Microampere Electric Current Causes Bacterial Membrane Damage and Two-Way Leakage in a Short Period of Time

by Krishnamurthi, Venkata Rao; Rogers, Ariel; Peifer, Janet; Niyonshuti, Isabelle I.; Chen, Jingyi; Wang, Yong

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Physical agents, such as low electric voltage and current, have recently gained attention for antimicrobial treatment due to their bactericidal capability. Although microampere electric current was shown to suppress the growth of bacteria, it remains unclear to what extent the microampere current damaged the bacterial membrane. Here, we investigated the membrane damage and two-way leakage caused by microampere electric current (<= 100 mu A) with a short exposure time (30 min). Based on MitoTracker staining, propidium iodide staining, filtration assays, and quantitative single-molecule localization microscopy, we observed significant membrane damage, which allowed two-way leakage of ions, small molecules, and proteins. This study paves the way to new development of antimicrobial applications for ultralow electric voltage and current. IMPORTANCE Although electric voltage and current have been studied for a long time in terms of their ability to suppress the growth of bacteria and to kill bacteria, increasing interest has been aroused more recently due to the prevalence of antibiotic resistance of microbes in past decades. Toward understanding the antimicrobial mechanism of low electric voltage and current, previous studies showed that treat- ing bacteria with milliampere electric currents (>= 5 mA) for >= 72 h led to significant damage of the bacterial membrane, which likely resulted in leakage of cellular contents and influx of toxic substances through the damaged membrane. However, it remains unclear to what extent membrane damage and two-way (i.e., inward and outward) leakage are caused by lower (i.e., microampere) electric current in a shorter time frame. In this work, we set out to answer this question. We observed that the membrane damage was caused by microampere electric current in half an hour, which allowed two-way leakage of ions, small molecules, and proteins.

Journal
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume
86
Issue
16
Year
2020
ISBN/ISSN
0099-2240; 1098-5336
PMID
32561580
DOI
10.1128/AEM.01015-20