Despite significant progress in synthetic polymer chemistry and in control over tuning the structures and morphologies of nanoparticles, studies on morphologic design of nanomaterials for the purpose of optimizing antimicrobial activity have yielded mixed results. When designing antimicrobial materials, it is important to consider two distinctly different modes and mechanisms of activity—those that involve direct interactions with bacterial cells, and those that promote the entry of nanomaterials into infected host cells to gain access to intracellular pathogens. Antibacterial activity of nanoparticles may involve direct interactions with organisms and/or release of antibacterial cargo, and these activities depend on attractive interactions and contact areas between particles and bacterial or host cell surfaces, local curvature and dynamics of the particles, all of which are functions of nanoparticle shape. Bacteria may exist as spheres, rods, helices, or even in uncommon shapes (e.g., box- and star-shaped) and, furthermore, may transform into other morphologies along their lifespan. For bacteria that invade host cells, multivalent interactions are involved and are dependent upon bacterial size and shape. Therefore, mimicking bacterial shapes has been hypothesized to impact intracellular delivery of antimicrobial nanostructures. Indeed, designing complementarities between the shapes of microorganisms with nanoparticle platforms that are designed for antimicrobial delivery offers interesting new perspectives toward future nanomedicines. Some studies have reported improved antimicrobial activities with spherical shapes compared to non-spherical constructs, whereas other studies have reported higher activity for non-spherical structures (e.g., rod, discoid, cylinder, etc.). The shapes of nano- and microparticles have also been shown to impact their rates and extents of uptake by mammalian cells (macrophages, epithelial cells, and others). However, in most of these studies, nanoparticle morphology was not intentionally designed to mimic specific bacterial shape. Herein, the morphologic designs of nanoparticles that possess antimicrobial activities per se and those designed to deliver antimicrobial agent cargoes are reviewed. Furthermore, hypotheses beyond shape dependence and additional factors that help to explain apparent discrepancies among studies are highlighted. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].
- Shape design