Sensitizing Pseudomonas aeruginosa to antibiotics by electrochemical disruption of membrane functions

Tagbo H.R. Niepa, Laura M. Snepenger, Hao Wang, Shiril Sivan, Jeremy L. Gilbert, Marcus B. Jones, Dacheng Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Recently, we reported synergistic effects between 70 μA/cm2 direct current and tobramycin in killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 persister cells, a phenomenon we named electrochemical control of persister cells (ECCP; Niepa et al. Biomaterials 33: 7356-7365, 2012). To understand the mechanism of ECCP, the effects of electrochemical treatments mediated via stainless steel 304 and carbon electrodes on P. aeruginosa PAO1 were systematically compared using complementary approaches in this study. Electron microscopic analysis revealed that μA/cm2 level direct current (DC) caused substantial changes in the structure and membrane integrity of P. aeruginosa PAO1 cells. DC treatments using SS304 electrodes induced cell lysis, while the same level of DC generated using carbon electrodes led to aggregation of intracellular proteins and increased permeabilization of P. aeruginosa PAO1 cells to antibiotics. The profound effects of DC on the physiology of persister cells were corroborated with DNA microarray analysis, which revealed the induction of genes associated with pyocin production and SOS response in DC-treated persister cells. Interestingly, sequential treatment using DC mediated with carbon electrodes followed by tobramycin was found more effective than concurrent treatment; and total eradication of persister cells was achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Jan 2016


  • Electrodes
  • Gene expression
  • Membrane
  • Persister cells
  • TEM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


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