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      Mechanisms of Silver Nanoparticle Release, Transformation and Toxicity: A Critical Review of Current Knowledge and Recommendations for Future Studies and Applications

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          Nanosilver, due to its small particle size and enormous specific surface area, facilitates more rapid dissolution of ions than the equivalent bulk material; potentially leading to increased toxicity of nanosilver. This, coupled with their capacity to adsorb biomolecules and interact with biological receptors can mean that nanoparticles can reach sub-cellular locations leading to potentially higher localized concentrations of ions once those particles start to dissolve or degrade in situ. Further complicating the story is the capacity for nanoparticles to generate reactive oxygen species, and to interact with, and potentially disturb the functioning of biomolecules such as proteins, enzymes and DNA. The fact that the nanoparticle size, shape, surface coating and a host of other factors contribute to these interactions, and that the particles themselves are evolving or ageing leads to further complications in terms of elucidating mechanisms of interaction and modes of action for silver nanoparticles, in contrast to dissolved silver species. This review aims to provide a critical assessment of the current understanding of silver nanoparticle toxicity, as well as to provide a set of pointers and guidelines for experimental design of future studies to assess the environmental and biological impacts of silver nanoparticles. In particular; in future we require a detailed description of the nanoparticles; their synthesis route and stabilisation mechanisms; their coating; and evolution and ageing under the exposure conditions of the assay. This would allow for comparison of data from different particles; different environmental or biological systems; and structure-activity or structure-property relationships to emerge as the basis for predictive toxicology. On the basis of currently available data; such comparisons or predictions are difficult; as the characterisation and time-resolved data is not available; and a full understanding of silver nanoparticle dissolution and ageing under different conditions is observed. Clear concerns are emerging regarding the overuse of nanosilver and the potential for bacterial resistance to develop. A significant conclusion includes the need for a risk—benefit analysis for all applications and eventually restrictions of the uses where a clear benefit cannot be demonstrated.

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          Most cited references 129

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          Does the antibacterial activity of silver nanoparticles depend on the shape of the nanoparticle? A study of the Gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli.

          In this work we investigated the antibacterial properties of differently shaped silver nanoparticles against the gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli, both in liquid systems and on agar plates. Energy-filtering transmission electron microscopy images revealed considerable changes in the cell membranes upon treatment, resulting in cell death. Truncated triangular silver nanoplates with a {111} lattice plane as the basal plane displayed the strongest biocidal action, compared with spherical and rod-shaped nanoparticles and with Ag(+) (in the form of AgNO(3)). It is proposed that nanoscale size and the presence of a {111} plane combine to promote this biocidal property. To our knowledge, this is the first comparative study on the bactericidal properties of silver nanoparticles of different shapes, and our results demonstrate that silver nanoparticles undergo a shape-dependent interaction with the gram-negative organism E. coli.
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            Physical-chemical aspects of protein corona: relevance to in vitro and in vivo biological impacts of nanoparticles.

            It is now clearly emerging that besides size and shape, the other primary defining element of nanoscale objects in biological media is their long-lived protein ("hard") corona. This corona may be expressed as a durable, stabilizing coating of the bare surface of nanoparticle (NP) monomers, or it may be reflected in different subpopulations of particle assemblies, each presenting a durable protein coating. Using the approach and concepts of physical chemistry, we relate studies on the composition of the protein corona at different plasma concentrations with structural data on the complexes both in situ and free from excess plasma. This enables a high degree of confidence in the meaning of the hard protein corona in a biological context. Here, we present the protein adsorption for two compositionally different NPs, namely sulfonated polystyrene and silica NPs. NP-protein complexes are characterized by differential centrifugal sedimentation, dynamic light scattering, and zeta-potential both in situ and once isolated from plasma as a function of the protein/NP surface area ratio. We then introduce a semiquantitative determination of their hard corona composition using one-dimensional sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and electrospray liquid chromatography mass spectrometry, which allows us to follow the total binding isotherms for the particles, identifying simultaneously the nature and amount of the most relevant proteins as a function of the plasma concentration. We find that the hard corona can evolve quite significantly as one passes from protein concentrations appropriate to in vitro cell studies to those present in in vivo studies, which has deep implications for in vitro-in vivo extrapolations and will require some consideration in the future.
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              Negligible particle-specific antibacterial activity of silver nanoparticles.

              For nearly a decade, researchers have debated the mechanisms by which AgNPs exert toxicity to bacteria and other organisms. The most elusive question has been whether the AgNPs exert direct "particle-specific" effects beyond the known antimicrobial activity of released silver ions (Ag(+)). Here, we infer that Ag(+) is the definitive molecular toxicant. We rule out direct particle-specific biological effects by showing the lack of toxicity of AgNPs when synthesized and tested under strictly anaerobic conditions that preclude Ag(0) oxidation and Ag(+) release. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the toxicity of various AgNPs (PEG- or PVP- coated, of three different sizes each) accurately follows the dose-response pattern of E. coli exposed to Ag(+) (added as AgNO(3)). Surprisingly, E. coli survival was stimulated by relatively low (sublethal) concentration of all tested AgNPs and AgNO(3) (at 3-8 μg/L Ag(+), or 12-31% of the minimum lethal concentration (MLC)), suggesting a hormetic response that would be counterproductive to antimicrobial applications. Overall, this work suggests that AgNP morphological properties known to affect antimicrobial activity are indirect effectors that primarily influence Ag(+) release. Accordingly, antibacterial activity could be controlled (and environmental impacts could be mitigated) by modulating Ag(+) release, possibly through manipulation of oxygen availability, particle size, shape, and/or type of coating.

                Author and article information

                Materials (Basel)
                Materials (Basel)
                05 June 2013
                June 2013
                : 6
                : 6
                : 2295-2350
                [1 ]Centre for BioNano Interactions, School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland; E-Mails: kenneth.a.dawson@ (K.A.D.); iseult.lynch@ (I.L.)
                [2 ]Department of Product Safety, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin 10589, Germany; E-Mails: Andrea.Haase@ (A.H.); andreas.luch@ (A.L.)
                [3 ]Department of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: bogumila.reidy@ ; Tel.: +353-1-716-2459.
                © 2013 by the authors;

                licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (



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