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The toxicity of some promising biomass-dissolving amidinium, imidazolium, and phosphonium based ionic liquids (ILs), towards two different cell lines, i.e. human corneal epithelial cells and Escherichia coli bacterial cells, was investigated. In addition, dynamic light scattering (DLS) and zeta potential measurements were used to study the effect of the ILs on the size and surface charge of some model liposomes. Capillary electrophoresis (CE) was used for the determination of the electrophoretic mobilities of the liposomes and for the determination of the critical micelle concentration (CMC) of the ILs. The toxicity of the phosphonium ILs was highly dependent on the longest linear chain of the IL, due to increasing hydrophobicity, with the long-chain phosphonium ILs being toxic while the shorter-chain versions were significantly less toxic or not toxic at all. Amidinium and imidazolium ILs showed no significant effect on the cells, within the used concentration range. Moreover, the more hydrophobic ILs were found to have a major effect on the surface charges and size distributions of the model liposomes, which can lead to disruption of the lipid bilayer. This indicates that the cytotoxicity is at least to some extent dependent on the direct interactions between ILs and the biomembrane.
PMID: 25581350 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]