Bioactive contaminants leach from disposable laboratory plasticware

Science. 2008 Nov 7;322(5903):917. doi: 10.1126/science.1162395.


Disposable plasticware such as test tubes, pipette tips, and multiwell assay or culture plates are used routinely in most biological research laboratories. Manufacturing of plastics requires the inclusion of numerous chemicals to enhance stability, durability, and performance. Some lubricating (slip) agents, exemplified by oleamide, also occur endogenously in humans and are biologically active, and cationic biocides are included to prevent bacterial colonization of the plastic surface. We demonstrate that these manufacturing agents leach from laboratory plasticware into a standard aqueous buffer, dimethyl sulfoxide, and methanol and can have profound effects on proteins and thus on results from bioassays of protein function. These findings have far-reaching implications for the use of disposable plasticware in biological research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide
  • Disinfectants / analysis*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology
  • Disposable Equipment*
  • Humans
  • Laboratories*
  • Monoamine Oxidase / metabolism*
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Oleic Acids / analysis*
  • Oleic Acids / pharmacology
  • Plastics / chemistry*
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / analysis*
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Solvents


  • Disinfectants
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Oleic Acids
  • Plastics
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Solvents
  • di(2-hydroxyethyl)methyldodecylammonium
  • oleylamide
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide