Bacterial physiology is a key modulator of the antibacterial activity of graphene oxide†
Carbon-based nanomaterials have a great potential as novel antibacterial agents; however, their interactions with bacteria are not fully understood. This study demonstrates that the antibacterial activity of graphene oxide (GO) depends on the physiological state of cells for both Gram-negative and -positive bacteria. GO susceptibility of bacteria is the highest in the exponential growth phase, which are in growing physiology, and stationary-phase (non-growing) cells are quite resistant against GO. Importantly, the order of GO susceptibility of E. coli with respect to the growth phases (exponential ≫ decline > stationary) correlates well with the changes in the envelope ultrastructures of the cells. Our findings are not only fundamentally important but also particularly critical for practical antimicrobial applications of carbon-based nanomaterials.