Formation of a Protein Corona on Silver Nanoparticles Mediates Cellular Toxicity via Scavenger Receptors

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Abstract

Addition of a protein corona (PC) or protein adsorption layer on the surface of nanomaterials following their introduction into physiological environments may modify their activity, bio-distribution, cellular uptake, clearance, and toxicity. We hypothesize that silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) will associate with proteins common to human serum and cell culture media forming a PC that will impact cell activation and cytotoxicity. Furthermore, the role of scavenger receptor BI (SR-BI) in mediating this toxicity was evaluated. Citrate-suspended 20 nm AgNPs were incubated with human serum albumin (HSA), bovine serum albumin (BSA), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or water (control) to form a PC. AgNPs associated with each protein (HSA, BSA, and HDL) forming PCs as assessed by electron microscopy, hyperspectral analysis, ζ-potential, and hydrodynamic size. Addition of the PC decreased uptake of AgNPs by rat lung epithelial and rat aortic endothelial cells. Hyperspectral analysis demonstrated a loss of the AgNP PC following internalization. Cells demonstrated concentration-dependent cytotoxicity following exposure to AgNPs with or without PCs (0, 6.25, 12.5, 25 or 50 μg/ml). All PC-coated AgNPs were found to activate cells by inducing IL-6 mRNA expression. A small molecule SR-BI inhibitor was utilized to determine the role of SR-BI in the observed effects. Pretreatment with the SR-BI inhibitor decreased internalization of AgNPs with or without PCs, and reduced both cytotoxicity and IL-6 mRNA expression. This study characterizes the formation of a PC on AgNPs and demonstrates its influence on cytotoxicity and cell activation through a cell surface receptor.

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