Detection and characterization of silver nanoparticles and dissolved species of silver in culture medium and cells by AsFlFFF-UV-Vis-ICPMS: application to nanotoxicity tests†
A methodology based on Asymmetric Flow Field-Flow Fractionation (AsFlFFF) coupled with UV-Vis absorption spectrometry and ICP mass spectrometry (ICPMS) has been developed and applied to the study of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) and dissolved species of silver in culture media and cells used in cytotoxicity tests. The effect of a nano-silver based product (protein stabilized silver nanoparticles ca. 15 nm average diameter) on human hepatoma (HepG2) cell viability has been studied. UV-Vis absorption spectrometry provided information about the nature (organic vs. nanoparticle) of the eluted species, whereas the silver was monitored by ICPMS. A shift towards larger hydrodynamic diameters was observed in the AgNPs after a 24 hour incubation period in the culture medium, which suggests a “protein corona” effect. Silver(I) associated with proteins present in the culture medium has also been detected, as a consequence of the oxidation process experimented by the AgNPs. However, the Ag(I) released into the culture medium did not justify the toxicity levels observed. AgNPs associated with the cultured HepG2 cells were also identified by AsFlFFF, after applying a solubilisation process based on the use of tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) and Triton X-100. These results have been confirmed by transmission electronic microscopy (TEM) analysis of the fractions collected from the AsFlFFF. The effect of AgNPs on HepG2 cells has been compared to that caused by silver(I) as AgNO3 under the same conditions. The determination of the total content of silver in the cells confirms that a much larger mass of silver as AgNPs with respect to AgNO3 (16 to 1) is needed to observe a similar toxicity.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Analytical Toxicology of Nanoparticles