Benzalkonium salts: Effects on G protein-mediated processes and surface membranes

Roberto Patarca, Jason A. Rosenzweig, Alicia A. Zuniga, Mary Ann Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Benzalkonium salts comprise a group of positively charged surface-active alkylamine biocides with the general formula alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride or bromide. They interact with guanine nucleotide triphosphate-binding proteins (G proteins), thereby affecting signal transduction in a variety of cell types and processes. This article reviews the known and potential basic science research and clinical applications and manifestations of benzalkonium salts. Benzalkonium salts have antiproliferative effects on a variety of cells (including T cells) through G protein - dependent pathways, affect cytokine gene expression (downregulate tumor necrosis factor expression), and are also effective bactericidal, fungicidal, and virucidal agents with multisite (direct and immunologically mediated) inhibitory activity against many pathogens, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), papillomavirus, and herpesviruses. Therefore, benzalkonium salts not only appear to be effective as disinfectants and spermicides but may also prove useful in the prevention and treatment of neoplasias and other disease, particularly those linked to viruses and originating at the skin or mucosal surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-305
Number of pages51
JournalCritical reviews in oncogenesis
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Bactericide
  • Cytokines
  • Draize test
  • Fungicide
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Natural killer cell cytotoxic activity
  • T-cell proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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