Silver nanoparticles (Ag-NPs) are being utilized in an increasing number of fields and are components of antibacterial coatings, antistatic materials, superconductors, and biosensors. A number of reports have now described the toxic effects of silver nanoparticles on somatic cells; however, no study has examined their effects on the germ line at the molecular level. Spermatogenesis is a complex biological process that is particularly sensitive to environmental insults. Many chemicals, including ultrafine particles, have a negative effect on the germ line, either by directly affecting the germ cells or by indirectly acting on the somatic cells of the testis. In the present study, we have assessed the impact of different doses of Ag-NPs, as well as their size and biocompatible coating, on the proliferation of mouse spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), which are at the origin of the germ line in the adult testis. At concentrations >OR= 10 microg/ml, Ag-NPs induced a significant decline in SSCs proliferation, which was also dependent on their size and coating. At the concentration of 10 microg/ml, reactive oxygen species production and/or apoptosis did not seem to play a major role; therefore, we explored other mechanisms to explain the decrease in cell proliferation. Because glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is vital for SSC self-renewal in vitro and in vivo, we evaluated the effects of Ag-NPs on GDNF-mediated signaling in these cells. Although the nanoparticles did not reduce GDNF binding or Ret receptor activity, our data revealed that already at a concentration of 10 microg/ml, silver nanoparticles specifically interact with Fyn kinase downstream of Ret and impair SSC proliferation in vitro. In addition, we demonstrated that the particle coating was degraded upon interaction with the intracellular microenvironment, reducing biocompatibility.
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