Toxicity of graphene oxide on intestinal bacteria and Caco-2 cells

J Food Prot. 2015 May;78(5):996-1002. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-14-463.


In recent years, novel nanomaterials have received much attention due to their great potential for applications in agriculture, food safety, and food packaging. Among them, graphene and graphene oxide (GO) are emerging as promising nanomaterials that may have a profound impact on food packaging. However, there are some concerns from consumers and the scientific community about the potential toxicity and biocompatibility of nanomaterials. In this study, we investigated the antibacterial properties of GO against human intestinal bacteria. The cytotoxicity of GO was also studied in vitro using the Caco-2 cell line derived from a colon carcinoma. Electron microscopy was used to investigate the morphology of GO and the interaction between GO flakes and Caco-2 cells. GO at different concentrations (10 to 500 μg/ml) exhibited no toxicity against the selected bacteria and a mild cytotoxic action on Caco-2 cells after 24 h of exposure. The results show that weak adsorption of medium nutrients may contribute to GO's low toxicity. This study suggests that GO is biocompatible and has a potential to be used in agriculture and food science, indicating that more studies are needed to exploit its potential applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bifidobacterium / drug effects
  • Bifidobacterium / growth & development
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Graphite / chemistry
  • Graphite / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus / drug effects
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus / growth & development
  • Oxides / chemistry
  • Oxides / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Oxides
  • Graphite