Antibacterial effects of nanopillar surfaces are mediated by cell impedance, penetration and induction of oxidative stress

Josh J Jenkins, Judith M Mantell, Chris R Neal, Ali Gholinia, Paul Verkade, Angela H Nobbs*, Bo Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

17 Downloads (Pure)


Some insects, such as dragonflies, have evolved nanoprotrusions on their wings that rupture bacteria on contact. This has inspired the design of antibacterial implant surfaces with insect-wing mimetic nanopillars made of synthetic materials. Here, we characterise the physiological and morphological effects of mimetic titanium nanopillars on bacteria. The nanopillars induce deformation and penetration of the Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial cell envelope, but do not rupture or lyse bacteria. They can also inhibit bacterial cell division, and trigger production of reactive oxygen species and increased abundance of oxidative stress proteins. Our results indicate that nanopillars’ antibacterial activities may be mediated by oxidative stress, and do not necessarily require bacterial lysis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1626 (2020)
Number of pages14
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020



  • Bactericidal
  • Biomimetic
  • Contact killing
  • Nanopillars
  • Oxidative stress

Cite this