Roles of hemocyte subpopulations in silver nanoparticle transformation and toxicity in the oysters Crassostrea hongkongensis

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Original languageEnglish
Article number119281
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Pollution
Online published9 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


Hemocytes are the main immune cells in bivalve mollusks and one of the sensitive targets for nanoparticle toxicity. Bivalve hemocytes consist of multiple functional heterogeneous cell types, but their different roles in immune system against foreign particles remain largely unknown. In order to clarify the different immune responses of hemocyte subpopulations to silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) and Ag ions, in this study, the Hong Kong oyster (Crassostrea hongkongensis) hemocytes were employed and separated into three subpopulations based on their cell size and granularity, including agranulocytes (R1), semigranulocytes (R2), and granulocytes (R3). We first demonstrated that AgNPs could rapidly enter into the oyster hemocytes within 3 h by phagocytosis process and resulted in different immune responses in hemocyte subpopulations. The most affected cell subtype by AgNPs was the granulocytes, followed by semigranulocytes, whereas agranulocytes were not affected following exposure to AgNPs. Interestingly, AgNPs induced the granule formation in semigranulocytes and further increased the proportion of granulocytes, whereas their ionic counterparts had no such effects on hemocyte composition, indicating the different detoxification mechanisms for nanoparticulate and ionic form. Following AgNP exposure, the dissolved Ag ions were accumulated in lysosomes and caused lysosomal dysfunction, indicating that lysosomes were the main targets for AgNP toxicity and the dissolved Ag ions were the main contributor of AgNP toxicity. Furthermore, AgNP exposure induced reactive oxygen production and impeded the lysosome function and phagocytosis in granulocytes, with impaired immunity system in oysters. Our study identified the different immune responses of oyster hemocyte subpopulations to AgNPs based on the in vitro short-term exposure assays, which may be applied to rapidly evaluate the ecotoxicological risks of different nanoparticles in aquatic systems.

Research Area(s)

  • AgNPs, Detoxification, Granulocytes, Hemocyte subpopulations, Immune toxicity