Physiological, ultrastructural and proteomic responses of tobacco seedlings exposed to silver nanoparticles and silver nitrate

Petra Peharec Štefanić, Petra Cvjetko, Renata Biba, Ana Marija Domijan, Ilse Letofsky-Papst, Mirta Tkalec, Sandra Šikić, Mario Cindrić, Biljana Balen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are a dominant nanomaterial in consumer products, there is growing concern about their impact on the environment. Although numerous studies on the effects of AgNPs on living organisms have been conducted, the interaction of AgNPs with plants has not been fully clarified. To reveal the plant mechanisms activated after exposure to AgNPs and to differentiate between effects specific to nanoparticles and ionic silver, we investigated the physiological, ultrastructural and proteomic changes in seedlings of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) exposed to commercial AgNPs and ionic silver (AgNO3) from the seed stage. A higher Ag content was measured in seedlings exposed to AgNPs than in those exposed to the same concentration of AgNO3. However, the results on oxidative stress parameters obtained revealed that, in general, higher toxicity was recorded in AgNO3-treated seedlings than in those exposed to nanosilver. Ultrastructural analysis of root cells confirmed the presence of silver in the form of nanoparticles, which may explain the lower toxicity of AgNPs. However, the ultrastructural changes of chloroplasts as well as proteomic study showed that both AgNPs and AgNO3 can affect photosynthesis. Moreover, the majority of the proteins involved in the primary metabolism were up-regulated after both types of treatments, indicating that enhanced energy production, which can be used to reinforce defensive mechanisms, enables plants to cope with silver-induced toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-653
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Nicotiana tabacum
  • Phytotoxicity
  • Proteomics
  • Silver nanoparticles
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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