Self-assembling morphology-tunable single-component supramolecular antibiotics for enhanced antibacterial manipulation†
The problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics has become a major cause of concern in the modern world, due to the occurrence of multidrug-resistant bacterial strains. A single-component supramolecular antibiotic with different self-assembling morphologies that can effectively regulate antibacterial efficacy and present recyclable antimicrobial activity is proposed. This supramolecular antibiotic consists of a cationic polymer-grafted host–guest-conjugated amphiphilic molecule. With sequential ultrasonic and redox stimuli, its self-assemblies presented reversible morphology transitions from spherical micelles to branched aggregates and finally to dot-like assemblies in aqueous solution. Branched aggregates showed the strongest antibacterial ability for E. coli and S. aureus amongst the three self-assemblies, owing to the special enrichment form and high distribution density of the grafted cationic polymer chains on their surfaces. Fluorogen-activating protein imaging was innovatively employed to deeply investigate the supramolecular antibiotic mechanism. It is anticipated that the design of self-assembling, single-component supramolecular antibiotics may be a successful strategy to fight against the increasingly serious problem of drug-resistant bacteria.