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Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes
Volume 1863 (6), 2021, 183597

Zeta potential beyond materials science: Applications to bacterial systems and to the development of novel antimicrobials

Anike P.V.Ferreyra Maillarda,1, Juan Carlos Espechea,1, Patricia Maturanaa,1, Andrea C.Cutroa,b, Axel Hollmanna,c

Laboratorio de Compuestos Bioactivos, Centro de Investigaciones en Biofísica Aplicada y Alimentos (CIBAAL), CONICET - Universidad Nacional de Santiago del Estero, RN 9, Km 1125, 4206 Santiago del Estero, Argentina.


This review summarizes the theory of zeta potential (ZP) and the most relevant data about how it has been used for studying bacteria. We have especially focused on the discovery and characterization of novel antimicrobial compounds. The ZP technique may be considered an indirect tool to estimate the surface potential of bacteria, a physical characteristic that is key to maintaining optimal cell function. For this reason, targeting the bacterial surface is of paramount interest in the development of new antimicrobials. Surface-acting agents have been found to display a remarkable bactericidal effect and have simultaneously revealed a low tendency to trigger resistance. Changes in the bacterial surface as a result of various processes can also be followed by ZP measurements. However, due to the complexity of the bacterial surface, some considerations regarding the assessment of ZP must first be taken into account. Evidence on the application of ZP measurements to the characterization of bacteria and biofilm formation is presented next. We finally discuss the feasibility of using the ZP technique to assess antimicrobial-induced changes in the bacterial surface. Among these changes are those related to the interaction of the agent with different components of the cell envelope, membrane permeabilization, and loss of viability.

Keywords: Zeta potential, Bacterial surface, Antimicrobial compound, Bacterial interaction.

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