Use of an in silico knowledge discovery approach to determine mechanistic studies of silver nanoparticles-induced toxicity from in vitro to in vivo

Bin Hsu Mao, Yi Kai Luo, Bour Jr Wang, Chun Wan Chen, Fong Yu Cheng, Yu Hsuan Lee, Shian Jang Yan, Ying Jan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are considered a double-edged sword that demonstrates beneficial and harmful effects depending on their dimensions and surface coating types. However, mechanistic understanding of the size- and coating-dependent effects of AgNPs in vitro and in vivo remains elusive. We adopted an in silico decision tree-based knowledge-discovery-in-databases process to prioritize the factors affecting the toxic potential of AgNPs, which included exposure dose, cell type and AgNP type (i.e., size and surface coating), and exposure time. This approach also contributed to effective knowledge integration between cell-based phenomenological observations and in vitro/in vivo mechanistic explorations. Results: The consolidated cell viability assessment results were used to create a tree model for generalizing cytotoxic behavior of the four AgNP types: SCS, LCS, SAS, and LAS. The model ranked the toxicity-related parameters in the following order of importance: exposure dose > cell type > particle size > exposure time ≥ surface coating. Mechanistically, larger AgNPs appeared to provoke greater levels of autophagy in vitro, which occurred during the earlier phase of both subcytotoxic and cytotoxic exposures. Furthermore, apoptosis rather than necrosis majorly accounted for compromised cell survival over the above dosage range. Intriguingly, exposure to non-cytotoxic doses of AgNPs induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and senescence instead. At the organismal level, SCS following a single intraperitoneal injection was found more toxic to BALB/c mice as compared to SAS. Both particles could be deposited in various target organs (e.g., spleen, liver, and kidneys). Morphological observation, along with serum biochemical and histological analyses, indicated that AgNPs could produce pancreatic toxicity, apart from leading to hepatic inflammation. Conclusions: Our integrated in vitro, in silico, and in vivo study revealed that AgNPs exerted toxicity in dose-, cell/organ type- and particle type-dependent manners. More importantly, a single injection of lethal-dose AgNPs (i.e., SCS and SAS) could incur severe damage to pancreas and raise blood glucose levels at the early phase of exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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