Silver Nanoparticles in Zebrafish ( Danio rerio) Embryos: Uptake, Growth and Molecular Responses

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Mar 9;21(5):1876. doi: 10.3390/ijms21051876.


Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are widely used in commercial applications as antimicrobial agents, but there have recently been increasing concerns raised about their possible environmental and health impacts. In this study, zebrafish embryos were exposed to two sizes of AgNP, 4 and 10 nm, through a continuous exposure from 4 to 96 h post-fertilisation (hpf), to study their uptake, impact and molecular defense responses. Results showed that zebrafish embryos were significantly impacted by 72 hpf when continuously exposed to 4 nm AgNPs. At concentrations above 0.963 mg/L, significant in vivo uptake and delayed yolk sac absorption was evident; at 1.925 mg/L, significantly reduced body length was recorded compared to control embryos. Additionally, 4 nm AgNP treatment at the same concentration resulted in significantly upregulated hypoxia inducible factor 4 (HIF4) and peroxisomal membrane protein 2 (Pxmp2) mRNA expression in exposed embryos 96 hpf. In contrast, no significant differences in terms of larvae body length, yolk sac absorption or gene expression levels were observed following exposure to 10 nm AgNPs. These results demonstrated that S4 AgNPs are available for uptake, inducing developmental (measured as body length and yolk sac area) and transcriptional (specifically HIF4 and Pxmp2) perturbations in developing embryos. This study suggests the importance of particle size as one possible factor in determining the developmental toxicity of AgNPs in fish embryos.

Keywords: continuous exposure; developmental toxicity; embryos (D. rerio); molecular response; silver nanoparticles; uptake.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Metal Nanoparticles / adverse effects*
  • Particle Size
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Silver / adverse effects*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / adverse effects
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Silver