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ACS Nano. 2012 May 22;6(5):3745-59. doi: 10.1021/nn204671v. Epub 2012 Apr 13.

Surface defects on plate-shaped silver nanoparticles contribute to its hazard potential in a fish gill cell line and zebrafish embryos.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of NanoMedicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


We investigated and compared nanosize Ag spheres, plates, and wires in a fish gill epithelial cell line (RT-W1) and in zebrafish embryos to understand the mechanism of toxicity of an engineered nanomaterial raising considerable environmental concern. While most of the Ag nanoparticles induced N-acetyl cysteine sensitive oxidative stress effects in RT-W1, Ag nanoplates were considerably more toxic than other particle shapes. Interestingly, while Ag ion shedding and bioavailability failed to comprehensively explain the high toxicity of the nanoplates, cellular injury required direct particle contact, resulting in cell membrane lysis in RT-W1 as well as red blood cells (RBC). Ag nanoplates were also considerably more toxic in zebrafish embryos in spite of their lesser ability to shed Ag into the exposure medium. To elucidate the "surface reactivity" of Ag nanoplates, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy was performed and demonstrated a high level of crystal defects (stacking faults and point defects) on the nanoplate surfaces. Surface coating with cysteine was used to passivate the surface defects and demonstrated a reduction of toxicity in RT-W1 cells, RBC, and zebrafish embryos. This study demonstrates the important role of crystal defects in contributing to Ag nanoparticle toxicity in addition to the established roles of Ag ion shedding by Ag nanoparticles. The excellent correlation between the in vitro and in vivo toxicological assessment illustrates the utility of using a fish cell line in parallel with zebrafish embryos to perform a predictive environmental toxicological paradigm.

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