Repeated exposure of Caco-2 versus Caco-2/HT29-MTX intestinal cell models to (nano)silver in vitro: Comparison of two commercially available colloidal silver products



K. Gillois, C. Stoffels, M. Leveque, I. Fourquaux, J. Blesson, V. Mils, S. Cambier, J. Vignard, H. Terrisse, G. Mirey, J.-N. Audinot, V. Theodorou, M.-H. Ropers, H. Robert, and M. Mercier-Bonin


Science of the Total Environment, vol. 754, art. no. 142324, 2021


Colloidal silver products are sold for a wide range of disinfectant and health applications. This has increased the potential for human exposure to silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) and ions (Ag+), for which oral ingestion is considered to be a major route of exposure. Our objective was to evaluate and compare the toxicity of two commercially available colloidal silver products on two human intestinal epithelial models under realistic exposure conditions. Mesosilver™ and AgC were characterized and a concentration range between 0.1 and 12 μg/mL chosen. Caco-2 cells vs. co-culture of Caco-2 and mucus-secreting HT29-MTX cells (90/10) were used. Repeated exposure was carried out to determine cell viability over 18 days of cell differentiation in 24-well plates. Selected concentrations (0.1, 1, and 3 μg/mL) were tested on cells cultured in E-plates and Transwells with the same repeated exposure regimen, to determine cell impedance, and cell viability and trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TEER), respectively. Silver uptake, intracellular localisation, and translocation were determined by CytoViva™, HIM-SIMS, and ICP-MS. Genotoxicity was determined on acutely-exposed proliferating Caco-2 cells by γH2AX immunofluorescence staining. Repeated exposure of a given concentration of AgC, which is composed solely of ionic silver, generally exerted more toxic effects on Caco-2 cells than Mesosilver™, which contains a mix of AgNPs and ionic silver. Due to its patchy structure, the presence of mucus in the Caco-2/HT29-MTX co-culture only slightly mitigated the deleterious effects on cell viability. Increased genotoxicity was observed for AgC on proliferating Caco-2 cells. Silver uptake, intracellular localisation, and translocation were similar. In conclusion, Mesosilver™ and AgC colloidal silver products show different levels of gut toxicity due to the forms of distinct silver (AgNPs and/or Ag+) contained within. This study highlights the applicability of high-resolution (chemical) imaging to detect and localize silver and provides insights into its uptake mechanisms, intracellular fate and cellular effects.



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