Molecular mechanisms of toxicity of silver nanoparticles in zebrafish embryos

Ronny van Aerle, Anke Lange, Alex Moorhouse, Konrad Paszkiewicz, Katie Ball, Blair D Johnston, Eliane de-Bastos, Timothy Booth, Charles R Tyler, Eduarda M Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Citations (Scopus)


Silver nanoparticles cause toxicity in exposed organisms and are an environmental health concern. The mechanisms of silver nanoparticle toxicity, however, remain unclear. We examined the effects of exposure to silver in nano-, bulk-, and ionic forms on zebrafish embryos (Danio rerio) using a Next Generation Sequencing approach in an Illumina platform (High-Throughput SuperSAGE). Significant alterations in gene expression were found for all treatments and many of the gene pathways affected, most notably those associated with oxidative phosphorylation and protein synthesis, overlapped strongly between the three treatments indicating similar mechanisms of toxicity for the three forms of silver studied. Changes in oxidative phosphorylation indicated a down-regulation of this pathway at 24 h of exposure, but with a recovery at 48 h. This finding was consistent with a dose-dependent decrease in oxygen consumption at 24 h, but not at 48 h, following exposure to silver ions. Overall, our data provide support for the hypothesis that the toxicity caused by silver nanoparticles is principally associated with bioavailable silver ions in exposed zebrafish embryos. These findings are important in the evaluation of the risk that silver particles may pose to exposed vertebrate organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8005-8014
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number14
Early online date12 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2013


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