Bioconcentration potential of ionic liquids: New data on membrane partitioning and its comparison with predictions obtained by COSMOmic

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Ionic liquids (ILs) have recently gained significant attention in both the scientific community and industry, but there is a limited understanding of the potential risks they might pose to the environment and human health, including their potential to accumulate in organisms. While membrane and storage lipids have been considered as primary sorption phases driving bioaccumulation, in this study we used an in vitro tool known as solid-supported lipid membranes (SSLMs) to investigate the affinity of ILs to membrane lipid - phosphatidylcholine and compare the results with an existing in silico model. Our findings indicate that ILs may have a strong affinity for the lipids that form cell membranes, with the key factor being the length of the cation's side chain. For quaternary ammonium cations, increase in membrane affinity (logMA) was observed from 3.45 ± 0.06 at 10 carbon atoms in chain to 4.79 ± 0.06 at 14 carbon atoms. We also found that the anion can significantly affect the membrane partitioning of the cation, even though the anions themselves tend to have weaker interactions with phospholipids than the cations of ILs. For 1-methyl-3-octylimidazolium cation the presence of tricyanomethanide anion caused increase in logMA to 4.23 ± 0.06. Although some of our data proved to be consistent with predictions made by the COSMOmic model, there are also significant discrepancies. These results suggest that further research is needed to improve our understanding of the mechanisms and structure-activity relationships involved in ILs bioconcentration and to develop more accurate predictive models.


Original languageEnglish
Article number184320
Pages (from-to)184320
Journal Biochimica et biophysica acta : BBA
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

External IDs

Scopus 85190745719
ORCID /0000-0002-9644-6095/work/161409119
ORCID /0000-0001-5186-3955/work/161409547


Sustainable Development Goals


  • Ionic Liquids/chemistry, Phosphatidylcholines/chemistry, Cell Membrane/metabolism, Membrane Lipids/chemistry, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds/chemistry, Lipid Bilayers/chemistry, Humans