Mechanisms of silver nanoparticles-induced cytotoxicity and apoptosis in rat tracheal epithelial cells

Juan Tang, Xiangjun Lu, Bin Chen, Enqi Cai, Wenli Liu, Jinxiao Jiang, Feifei Chen, Xiaodong Shan, Hangjun Zhang
Journal of Toxicological Sciences 2019, 44 (3): 155-165
Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are increasingly utilized in a number of applications. This study was designed to investigate AgNPs induced cytotoxicity, oxidative stress and apoptosis in rat tracheal epithelial cells (RTE). The RTE cells were treated with 0, 100 μg/L and 10,000 μg/L of the AgNPs with diameters of 10 nm and 100 nm for 12 hr. The cell inhibition level, apoptosis ratio, reactive oxygen species (ROS), malondialdehyde (MDA) and metallothionein (MT) content were determined. The mRNA expression of cytoc, caspase 3, and caspase 9 was measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). In addition, we also analyzed the cytoc, caspase 3, pro-caspase 3, caspase 9, and pro-caspase 9 protein expression by western blotting. Electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) analysis showed that the growth and proliferation of RTE cells were significantly inhibited in a dose-dependent manner under AgNPs exposure. The cell dynamic changes induced by 10 nm AgNPs were more severe than that of the 100 nm AgNPs exposure group. The intracellular MT, ROS, and MDA content increased when the exposure concentration increased and size reduced, whereas Ca2+ -ATPase activity and Na+ /K+ -ATPase activity changed inversely. The relative expression of protein of cytoc, caspase 3, and caspase 9 were upregulated significantly, which indicated that AgNPs induced apoptosis of RTE cells through the caspase-dependent mitochondrial pathway. Our results demonstrate that AgNPs caused obvious cytotoxicity, oxidative stress, and apoptosis in RTE cells, which promoted the releasing of cytochrome C and pro-apoptotic proteins into the cytoplasm to activate the caspase cascade and finally led to apoptosis.

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