A comparative cytotoxicity study of isomeric alkylphthalates to metabolically variant bacteria

Edward H. Sandy, Jun Yao*, Shixue Zheng, Alhaji B. Gogra, Huilun Chen, Hui Zheng, Thomas B.R. Yormah, Xin Zhang, Gyula Zaray, Brunello Ceccanti, Martin M F CHOI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


This work investigated the toxicity of two isomeric alkylphthalates, i.e., di-n-octyl phthalate (DOP) and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) to two model bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Bacillus subtilis (B. subtilis), which have been previously used to study the toxicity of environmental pollutants. Microcalorimetry was used as the key analytical tool alongside scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and traditional microbiology techniques. The thermokinetic parameters from microcalorimetry showed that the phthalates had a biphasic effect on the metabolic activities of the bacteria; serving as energy sources for the bacteria thereby stimulating their growth at low dosages (≤150. μg/mL), but displaying inhibitory effects at higher dosages (≥300. μg/mL), indicated by a sharp decrease in growth rate constants at 450. μg/mL. The SEM revealed that the bacterial cells were morphological deformed, with shrunk cells and elongated strands at 600. μg/mL of both phthalates. The elongated strands inferred that the phthalates inhibited the reproductive processes of the bacteria by possibly impeding some stages of cell division. The half inhibitory concentrations of the phthalates showed that DEHP was more toxic than DOP. Additionally, E. coli, a facultative anaerobe, was more susceptible to the toxic effects of phthalates than B. subtilis, an obligate aerobe capable of forming endospores crucial for tolerating extreme environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-639
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Growth inhibition
  • Microcalorimetry
  • Phthalates
  • Toxicity


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