Toxicity of silver nanoparticles in mouse embryonic stem cells and chemical based reprogramming of somatic cells to sphere cells

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Biology


Department of Biology


Advisor: Yiling Hong


Silver nanoparticles (Ag Np’s) have an interesting surface chemistry and unique plasmonic properties. They are used in a wide variety of applications ranging from consumer products like socks, medical dressing, computer chips and it is also shown to have antimicrobial, anti bacterial activity and wound healing. Ag Np toxicity studies have been limited to date which needs to be critically addressed due to its wide applications. Mouse embryonic stem (MES) cells represent a unique cell population with the ability to undergo both self renewal and differentiation. They exhibit very stringent and tightly regulated mechanisms to circumvent DNA damage and stress response. We used 10 nm coated (polysaccharide) and uncoated Ag Np’s to test its toxic effects on MES cells. MES cells and embryoid bodies (EB’s) were treated with two concentrations of Ag Np’s: 5 µg/ml and 50 ug/ml and exposed for 24, 48 and 72 hours. Increased cell death, ROS production and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and alkaline phosphatase (AP) occur in a time and a concentration dependant manner. Due to increased cell death, there is a progressive increase in Annexin V (apoptosis) and Propidium Iodide (PI) staining (necrosis). Oct4 and Nanog undergo ubiquitination and dephosphorylation post-translational modifications in MES cells thereby altering gene expression of pluripotency factors and differentiation of EB’s into all the three embryonic germ layers with specific growth factors were also inhibited after Ag Np exposure. Flow cytometry analysis revealed Ag Np’s treated cells had altered cell cycle phases correlating with altered self renewal capacity. Our results suggest that Ag Np’s effect MES cell self renewal, pluripotency and differentiation and serves as a perfect model system for studying toxicity induced by engineered Ag Np’s.


Silver Physiological effect, Nanoparticles Health aspects, Stem cells, Mice Genetic engineering

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2011, author