Exposure-dependent Ag+ release from silver nanoparticles and its complexation in AgS2 sites in primary murine macrophages†
Silver nanoparticle (AgNP) toxicity is related to their dissolution in biological environments and to the binding of the released Ag+ ions in cellulo; the chemical environment of recombined Ag+ ions is responsible for their toxicological outcome, moreover it is indicative of the cellular response to AgNP exposure, and can therefore shed light on the mechanisms governing AgNP toxicity. This study probes the chemistry of Ag species in primary murine macrophages exposed to AgNPs by making use of X-ray Absorption Fine Structure spectroscopy under cryogenic conditions: the linear combination analysis of the near-edge region of the spectra provides the fraction of Ag+ ions released from the AgNPs under a given exposure condition and highlights their complexation with thiolate groups; the ab initio modelling of the extended spectra allows measuring the Ag–S bond length in cellulo. Dissolution rates depend on the exposure scenario, chronicity leading to higher Ag+ release than acute exposure; Ag–S bond lengths are 2.41 ± 0.03 Å and 2.38 ± 0.01 Å in acute and chronic exposure respectively, compatible with digonal AgS2 coordination. Glutathione is identified as the most likely putative ligand for Ag+. The proposed method offers a scope for the investigation of metallic nanoparticle dissolution and recombination in cellular models.