Mitochondrial toxicity of triclosan on mammalian cells

Charmaine Ajao, Maria A. Andersson, Vera V. Teplova, Szabolcs Nagy, Carl G. Gahmberg, Leif C. Andersson, Maria Hautaniemi, Balazs Kakasi, Merja Roivainen, Mirja Salkinoja-Salonen

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Effects of triclosan (5-chloro-2'-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol) on mammalian cells were investigated using human peripheral blood mono nuclear cells (PBMC), keratinocytes (HaCaT), porcine spermatozoa and kidney tubular epithelial cells (PK-15), murine pancreatic islets (MIN-6) and neuroblastoma cells (MNA) as targets. We show that triclosan (1-10μgml-1) depolarised the mitochondria, upshifted the rate of glucose consumption in PMBC, HaCaT, PK-15 and MNA, and subsequently induced metabolic acidosis. Triclosan induced a regression of insulin producing pancreatic islets into tiny pycnotic cells and necrotic death. Short exposure to low concentrations of triclosan (30min, ≤1μg/ml) paralyzed the high amplitude tail beating and progressive motility of spermatozoa, within 30min exposure, depolarized the spermatozoan mitochondria and hyperpolarised the acrosome region of the sperm head and the flagellar fibrous sheath (distal part of the flagellum). Experiments with isolated rat liver mitochondria showed that triclosan impaired oxidative phosphorylation, downshifted ATP synthesis, uncoupled respiration and provoked excessive oxygen uptake. These exposure concentrations are 100-1000 fold lower that those permitted in consumer goods. The mitochondriotoxic mechanism of triclosan differs from that of valinomycin, cereulide and the enniatins by not involving potassium ionophoric activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-637
Number of pages14
JournalToxicology Reports
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Acidosis
  • Electric transmembrane potential
  • Glycolysis
  • Oxidative phosphorylation
  • Sperm motility
  • Uncoupler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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  • Cite this

    Ajao, C., Andersson, M. A., Teplova, V. V., Nagy, S., Gahmberg, C. G., Andersson, L. C., Hautaniemi, M., Kakasi, B., Roivainen, M., & Salkinoja-Salonen, M. (2015). Mitochondrial toxicity of triclosan on mammalian cells. Toxicology Reports, 2, 624-637.