Exposure to silver impairs learning and social behaviors in adult zebrafish

Chih Wei Fu, Jiun Lin Horng, Sok Keng Tong, Bor Wei Cherng, Bo Kai Liao, Li Yih Lin, Ming Yi Chou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Silver and silver nanoparticles are used in several consumer products, particularly sterilizing agents. Ag+ released from the particles causes physiological damages of aquatic organisms. However, the effects of silver on neural and behavioral functions of fish remain unclear. Here, we used zebrafish as a model to investigate the impacts of silver on social, learning and memory behaviors in teleost. Adult zebrafish showed mortality rates of 12.875% and 100% on 72 h exposure to 30 and ≥ 50 ppb of silver nitrate, respectively. Silver accumulation in the brain increased on exposure to 10 and 30 ppb of AgNO3. The physical fitness of the zebrafish, measured by novel tank diving test and swimming performance, decreased after 72 h incubation in 30 ppb of AgNO3. Exposure to 10 ppb of AgNO3 impaired social preference, social recognition, learning, and memory, but did not affect anxiety level, aggressiveness, and shoaling behavior. In situ hybridization of c-fos mRNA showed that AgNO3 treatment decreased neural activity in the brain areas crucial for learning, memory, and social behaviors, including the medial and dorsal zones of the dorsal telencephalic area. In conclusion, 72 h exposure to AgNO3 in a sublethal level impaired learning and social behaviors, indicating neurotoxicity in adult zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124031
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb 5


  • Aquatic Toxicity
  • Behavioral alteration
  • Silver nitrate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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