•Hydrophobic and cationic low MW chitosans exhibit increased antimicrobial activity in relation to the intermediate and starting compounds.•Derivative with higher cationic character showed cytotoxicity towards human cervical carcinoma cells.•Mechanism of action is associated to electrostatic interaction with anionic model membranes and intense lytic activity.•Balancing derivatives hydrophobicity and charge modulates selectivity towards bacterial model membranes, improving efficiency.•The “charge cluster mechanism”, ascribed to some antimicrobial peptides, may be at play.
Carbohydrate Polymers – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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