Effects of silver nanoparticles on zebrafish (Danio rerio) and Escherichia coli (ATCC 25922): A comparison of toxicity based on total surface area versus mass concentration of particles in a model eukaryotic and prokaryotic system



Silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) have been classified as the most abundant NP found in commercial products. In the present study, zebrafish (Danio rerio) and bacteria (Escherichia coli; ATCC 25922) were used to test the size-dependent toxicological effects of Ag NPs, the effects of ionic silver versus Ag NPs, and Ag NP effects on mortality using mass concentration (mg/L) compared with total surface area (nm2/L). Several diameters of Ag NPs (20, 50, 110 nm) as well as AgNO3 were chosen as experimental treatments. Treated zebrafish embryos exhibited anomalies of the heart, namely, slower heart rates and pericardial edema. A size-dependent response was not observed in zebrafish when viewing mortality across all Ag NP treatments, although 20 nm elicited the highest incidence of abnormal motility and induced slower development. An Ag NP dose- and size-dependent response was observed in treated bacteria using mass concentration, with 20-nm Ag NP producing the highest mortality rate. In both zebrafish and bacteria, AgNO3 was shown to be more toxic than Ag NPs at equivalent concentrations. When total surface area of Ag NPs was used to gauge bacterial mortality, a total surface area-dependent, but not size-dependent, response was observed for all three Ag NPs used in the present study, with nearly 100% mortality observed once a total surface area of approximately 1E + 18 nm2/L was reached. This trend was not apparent, however, when measuring total surface area for zebrafish mortality. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012; 31: 1793–1800. © 2012 SETAC