Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Chemical Research in Toxicology








Nanomaterials possess distinctive physicochemical properties (e.g., small sizes and high surface area-to-volume ratios) and promise a wide variety of applications, ranging from the design of high quality consumer products to effective disease diagnosis and therapy. These properties can lead to toxic effects, potentially hindering advances in nanotechnology. In this study, we have synthesized and characterized purified and stable (nonaggregation) silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs, 41.6 ± 9.1 nm in average diameter) and utilized early developing (cleavage-stage) zebrafish embryos (critical aquatic and eco- species) as in vivo model organisms to probe the diffusion and toxicity of Ag NPs. We found that single Ag NPs (30-72 nm diameters) passively diffused into the embryos through chorionic pores via random Brownian motion and stayed inside the embryos throughout their entire development (120 hours-post-fertilization, hpf). Dose-and size-dependent toxic effects of the NPs on embryonic development were observed, showing the possibility of tuning biocompatibility and toxicity of the NPs. At lower concentrations of the NPs (≤0.02 nM), 75-91% of embryos developed into normal zebrafish. At the higher concentrations of NPs (≥0.20 nM), 100% of embryos became dead. At the concentrations in between (0.02-0.2 nM), embryos developed into various deformed zebrafish. Number and sizes of individual Ag NPs embedded in tissues of normal and deformed zebrafish at 120 hpf were quantitatively analyzed, showing deformed zebrafish with higher number of larger NPs than normal zebrafish and size-dependent nanotoxicity. By comparing with our previous studies of smaller Ag NPs (11.6 ± 3.5 nm), we found striking size-dependent nanotoxicity that, at the same molar concentration, the larger Ag NPs (41.6 ± 9.1 nm) are more toxic than the smaller Ag NPs (11.6 ± 3.5 nm).


“This document is the author’s version of a Submitted Work that was subsequently accepted for publication in Chemical Research in Toxicology copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review. To access the final edited and published work see:

Original Publication Citation

Lee, K. J., Browning, L. M., Nallathamby, P. D., Desai, T., Cherukuri, P. K., & Xu, X. H. N. (2012). In vivo quantitative study of sized-dependent transport and toxicity of single silver nanoparticles using zebrafish embryos. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 25(5), 1029-1046. doi: 10.1021/tx300021u


0000-0003-2231-5487 (Browning), 0000-0001-5064-294X (Nallathamby), 0000-0002-7470-1948 (Nancy Xu)