Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are commonly used nanomaterials in consumer products. Previous studies focused on its effects on neurons; however, little is known about their effects and uptake mechanisms on glial cells under normal or activated states. Here, ALT astrocyte-like, BV-2 microglia and differentiated N2a neuroblastoma cells were directly or indirectly exposed to 10 nm AgNPs using mono- and co-culture system. A lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was pretreated to activate glial cells before AgNP treatment for mimicking NP exposure under brain inflammation. From mono-culture, ALT took up the most AgNPs and had the lowest cell viability within three cells. Moreover, AgNPs induced H2O2 and NO from ALT/activated ALT and BV-2, respectively. However, AgNPs did not induce cytokines release (IL-6, TNF-α, MCP-1). LPS-activated BV-2 took up more AgNPs than normal BV-2, while the induction of ROS and cytokines from activated cells were diminished. Ca2+-regulated clathrin- and caveolae-independent endocytosis and phagocytosis were involved in the AgNP uptake in ALT, which caused more rapid NP translocation to lysosome than in macropinocytosis and clathrin-dependent endocytosis-involved BV-2. AgNPs directly caused apoptosis and necrosis in N2a cells, while by indirect NP exposure to bottom chamber ALT or BV-2 in Transwell, more apoptotic upper chamber N2a cells were observed. Cell viability of BV-2 also decreased in an ALT–BV-2 co-culturing study. The damaged cells correlated to NP-mediated H2O2 release from ALT or NO from BV-2, which indicates that toxic response of AgNPs to neurons is not direct, but indirectly arises from AgNP-induced soluble factors from other glial cells.
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