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Organ-Specific and Size-Dependent Ag Nanoparticle Toxicity in Gills and Intestines of Adult Zebrafish

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We studied adult zebrafish to determine whether the size of 20 and 110 nm citrate-coated silver nanoparticles (AgC NPs) differentially impact the gills and intestines, known target organs for Ag toxicity in fish. Following exposure for 4 h, 4 days, or 4 days plus a 7 day depuration period, we obtained different toxicokinetic profiles for different particle sizes, as determined by Ag content of the tissues. Ionic AgNO3 served as a positive control. The gills showed a significantly higher Ag content for the 20 nm particles at 4 h and 4 days than the 110 nm particles, while the values were more similar in the intestines. Both particle types were retained in the intestines even after depuration. These toxicokinetics were accompanied by striking size-dependent differences in the ultrastructural features and histopathology in the target organs in response to the particulates. Ag staining of the gills and intestines confirmed prominent Ag deposition in the basolateral membranes for the 20 nm but not for the 110 nm particles. Furthermore, it was possible to link the site of tissue deposition to disruption of the Na(+)/K(+) ion channel, which is also localized to the basolateral membrane. This was confirmed by a reduction in ATPase activity and immunohistochemical detection of the α subunit of this channel in both target organs, with the 20 nm particles causing significantly higher inhibition and disruption than the larger size particles or AgNO3. These results demonstrate the importance of particle size in determining the hazardous impact of AgNPs in the gills and intestines of adult zebrafish.

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