Ethylene glycol derivative-pendanted quaternary ammonium antibacterial polymers with low cytotoxicity

Myeongji Yun, Jaesung Lee, Seung Su Shin, Sung Joon Park, Jieun Choi, Jiwon Seo, Jung Hyun Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cationic poly(quaternary ammonium) (pQA) polymers exhibit excellent antibacterial efficacy but high cytotoxicity (thus low selectivity), hampering their widespread use as antibacterial agents. Herein, we systematically synthesized a series of pQA polymers (pQA−EG) containing biocompatible ethylene glycol (EG) derivative pendant groups with different chain lengths and connectivities (acyclic/cyclic). The antibacterial efficacy of pQA−EG was optimized by a moderate EG chain length, which endowed the polymer with balanced hydrophobicity/charge density. The high chain flexibility of the EG derivative combined with its good hydrophilicity was critical for significantly lowering the cytotoxicity of pQA−EG. Hence, compared with pQA polymers containing alkyl pendant groups, the pQA−EG polymer containing a long flexible EG derivative pendant group exhibited significantly lower cytotoxicity and higher selectivity as well as satisfactory antibacterial activity and kinetics. Our study offers a rational platform for synthesizing low-toxicity antibacterial polymers and provides fundamental insights into their structure−biological activity relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112772
JournalEuropean Polymer Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Feb 21

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Antibacterial polymer
  • Antibacterial property
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Pendant group
  • Quaternary ammonium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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