Effect of 45 nm silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) upon the smooth muscle of rat trachea: role of nitric oxide

Toxicol Lett. 2011 Dec 15;207(3):306-13. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2011.09.024. Epub 2011 Oct 1.


AgNPs have been used to manufacture nanomaterials with new biophysical properties and functions. However, few experimental approaches have been used to assess their potential toxic or beneficial effects on human health, in association with the size, concentration, and biological target. The aim of this work was to evaluate the effects of the AgNPs on the smooth muscle of rat trachea. A single administration of AgNPs did not modify the smooth muscle tone, but, when the trachea rings were pre-treated with acetylcholine (ACh), AgNPs produced a contractile effect. Simultaneous administration of AgNPs and ACh resulted in a slight increase of smooth muscle contractility induced by ACh. AgNPs pretreatment followed by ACh administration showed that AgNPs exerted an important contraction effect induced by ACh after which muscle tone did not return to the basal level. This effect was associated with an increase in the production of nitric oxide (NO). The contractile response of the AgNPs induced by ACh was completely blocked when the rings were incubated, after the ACh but before the AgNPs administration, with 1400 W (NO blocker). The contractile effect was also abolished by atropine, which suggests that AgNPs alter ACh muscarinic receptor signaling. These data also show that AgNPs modify the contractile action of ACh through NO production and possibly induce hyper-reactivity of tracheal smooth muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Drug Interactions
  • Male
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / chemistry
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects*
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Silver / toxicity*
  • Trachea / chemistry
  • Trachea / drug effects*


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Silver
  • Acetylcholine