Design Guidelines for Cationic Pillar[n]arenes that Prevent Biofilm Formation by Gram-Positive Pathogens

Dana Kaizerman-Kane, Maya Hadar, Roymon Joseph, Dana Logviniuk, Yossi Zafrani, Micha Fridman, Yoram Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacterial biofilms are a major threat to human health, causing persistent infections that lead to millions of fatalities worldwide every year. Biofilms also cause billions of dollars of damage annually by interfering with industrial processes. Recently, cationic pillararenes were found to be potent inhibitors of biofilm formation in Gram-positive bacteria. To identify the structural features of pillararenes that result in antibiofilm activity, we evaluated the activity of 16 cationic pillar[5]arene derivatives including that of the first cationic water-soluble pillar[5]arene-based rotaxane. Twelve of the derivatives were potent inhibitors of biofilm formation by Gram-positive pathogens. Structure activity analyses of our pillararene derivatives indicated that positively charged head groups are critical for the observed antibiofilm activity. Although certain changes in the lipophilicity of the substituents on the positively charged head groups are tolerated, dramatic elevation in the hydrophobicity of the substituents or an increase in steric bulk on these positive charges abolishes the antibiofilm activity. An increase in the overall positive charge from 10 to 20 did not affect the activity significantly, but pillararenes with 5 positive charges and 5 long alkyl chains had reduced activity. Surprisingly, the cavity of the pillar[n]arene is not essential for the observed activity, although the macrocyclic structure of the pillar[n]arene core, which facilitates the clustering of the positive charges, appears important. Interestingly, the compounds found to be efficient inhibitors of biofilm formation were nonhemolytic at concentrations that are ∼100-fold of their MBIC50 (the minimal concentration of a compound at which at least 50% inhibition of biofilm formation was observed compared to untreated cells). The structure-activity relationship guidelines established here pave the way for a rational design of potent cationic pillar[n]arene-based antibiofilm agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-585
Number of pages7
JournalACS Infectious Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - 12 Mar 2021


  • Gram-positive
  • SAR
  • antibiofilm agents
  • bacterial biofilm
  • cationic pillararenes


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