Impact of in vitro digestion on gastrointestinal fate and uptake of silver nanoparticles with different surface modifications

Ashraf Abdelkhaliq, Meike van der Zande, Anna K. Undas, Ruud J.B. Peters, Hans Bouwmeester*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Nanomaterials, especially silver nanoparticles (AgNPs), are used in a broad range of products owing to their antimicrobial potential. Oral ingestion is considered as a main exposure route to AgNPs. This study aimed to investigate the impact of the biochemical conditions within the human digestive tract on the intestinal fate of AgNPs across an intestinal in vitro model of differentiated Caco-2/HT29-MTX cells. The co-culture model was exposed to different concentrations (250–2500 µg/L) of pristine and in vitro digested (IVD) AgNPs and silver nitrate for 24 h. ICP-MS and spICP-MS measurements were performed for quantification of total Ag and AgNPs. The AgNPs size distribution, dissolution, and particle concentration (mass- and number-based) were characterized in the cell fraction and in the apical and basolateral compartments of the monolayer cultures. A significant fraction of the AgNPs dissolved (86–92% and 48–70%) during the digestion. Cellular exposure to increasing concentrations of pristine or IVD AgNPs resulted in a concentration dependent increase of total Ag and AgNPs content in the cellular fractions. The cellular concentrations were significantly lower following exposure to IVD AgNPs compared to the pristine AgNPs. Transport of silver as either total Ag or AgNPs was limited (<0.1%) following exposure to pristine and IVD AgNPs. We conclude that the surface chemistry of AgNPs and their digestion influence their dissolution properties, uptake/association with the Caco-2/HT29-MTX monolayer. This highlights the need to take in vitro digestion into account when studying nanoparticle toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics in cellular in vitro model systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-126
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • bioavailability
  • in vitro digestion
  • Silver nanoparticles
  • single particle-ICP-MS
  • surface chemistry


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