Drug-Free Enzyme-Based Bactericidal Nanomotors against Pathogenic Bacteria

ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2021 Apr 7;13(13):14964-14973. doi: 10.1021/acsami.1c00986. Epub 2021 Mar 26.


The low efficacy of current conventional treatments for bacterial infections increases mortality rates worldwide. To alleviate this global health problem, we propose drug-free enzyme-based nanomotors for the treatment of bacterial urinary-tract infections. We develop nanomotors consisting of mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNPs) that were functionalized with either urease (U-MSNPs), lysozyme (L-MSNPs), or urease and lysozyme (M-MSNPs), and use them against nonpathogenic planktonic Escherichia coli. U-MSNPs exhibited the highest bactericidal activity due to biocatalysis of urea into NaHCO3 and NH3, which also propels U-MSNPs. In addition, U-MSNPs in concentrations above 200 μg/mL were capable of successfully reducing 60% of the biofilm biomass of a uropathogenic E. coli strain. This study thus provides a proof-of-concept, demonstrating that enzyme-based nanomotors are capable of fighting infectious diseases. This approach could potentially be extended to other kinds of diseases by selecting appropriate biomolecules.

Keywords: E. coli; biofilms; enzymatic nanomotors; infections; nanomachines; self-propulsion.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biocatalysis
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Canavalia / enzymology
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / physiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Muramidase / administration & dosage
  • Muramidase / pharmacology*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry*
  • Urease / administration & dosage
  • Urease / pharmacology*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Drug Carriers
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Muramidase
  • Urease