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pH-Sensitive Surfactants from Lysine: Assessment of Their Cytotoxicity and Environmental Behavior

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journal contribution
posted on 10.04.2012, 00:00 by Aurora Colomer, Aurora Pinazo, Maria Teresa García, Montserrat Mitjans, M. Pilar Vinardell, Maria Rosa Infante, Verónica Martínez, Lourdes Pérez
The toxicity and environmental behavior of new pH-sensitive surfactants from lysine are presented. Three different chemical structures are studied: surfactants with one amino acid and one alkyl chain, surfactants with two amino acids on the polar head and one alkyl chain, and gemini surfactants. The pH sensitivity of these compounds can be tuned by modifying their chemical structures. Cytotoxicity has been evaluated using erythrocytes and fibroblast cells. The toxic effects against these cells depend on the hydrophobicity of the molecules as well as their cationic charge density. The effect of hydrophobicity and cationic charge density on toxicity is different for each type of cells. For erythrocytes, the toxicity increases as hydrophobicity and charge density increases. Nevertheless, for fibroblasts cationic charge density affects cytotoxicity in the opposite way: the higher charge density, the lower the toxicity. The effect of the pH on hemolysis has been evaluated in detail. The aquatic toxicity was established using Daphnia magna. All surfactants yielded EC50 values considerably higher than that reported for cationic surfactants based on quaternary ammonium groups. Finally, their biodegradability was evaluated using the CO2 headspace test (ISO 14593). These lysine derivatives showed high levels of biodegradation under aerobic conditions and can be classified as “readily biodegradable compounds”.