Use of a silver ion selective electrode to assess mechanisms responsible for biological effects of silver nanoparticles

For a detailed analysis of the biological effects of silver nanoparticles, discrimination between effects related to the nano-scale size of the particles and effects of released silver ions is required. Silver ions are either present in the initial particle dispersion or released by the nanoparticles over time. The aim of this study is to monitor the free silver ion activity {Ag+} in the presence of silver nanoparticles using a silver ion selective electrode. Therefore, silver in the form of silver nanoparticles, 4.2 ± 1.4 nm and 2-30 nm in size, or silver nitrate was added to cell culture media in the absence or presence of A549 cells as a model for human type II alveolar epithelial cells. The free silver ion activity measured after the addition of silver nanoparticles was determined by the initial ionic silver content. Thep{Ag+} values indicated that the cell culture media decrease the free silver ion activity due to binding of silver ions by constituents of the media. In the presence of A549 cells, the free silver ion activity was further reduced. The morphology of A549 cells, cultivated in DME medium containing 9.1% (v/v) FBS, was affected by adding AgNO3at concentrations of ≥30 μM after 24 h. In comparison, silver nanoparticles up to a concentration of 200 μM Ag did not affect cellular morphology. Our experiments indicate that the effect of silver nanoparticles is mainly mediated by silver ions. An effect of silver on cellular morphology was observed atp{Ag+} ≤ 9.2.