Microbial silver resistance mechanisms: recent developments

Ergi Terzioğlu, Mevlüt Arslan, Berrak Gülçin Balaban, Zeynep Petek Çakar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: In this mini-review, after a brief introduction into the widespread antimicrobial use of silver ions and nanoparticles against bacteria, fungi and viruses, the toxicity of silver compounds and the molecular mechanisms of microbial silver resistance are discussed, including recent studies on bacteria and fungi. The similarities and differences between silver ions and silver nanoparticles as antimicrobial agents are also mentioned. Regarding bacterial ionic silver resistance, the roles of the sil operon, silver cation efflux proteins, and copper-silver efflux systems are explained. The importance of bacterially produced exopolysaccharides as a physiological (biofilm) defense mechanism against silver nanoparticles is also emphasized. Regarding fungal silver resistance, the roles of metallothioneins, copper-transporting P-type ATPases and cell wall are discussed. Recent evolutionary engineering (adaptive laboratory evolution) studies are also discussed which revealed that silver resistance can evolve rapidly in bacteria and fungi. The cross-resistance observed between silver resistance and resistance to other heavy metals and antibiotics in bacteria and fungi is also explained as a clinically and environmentally important issue. The use of silver against bacterial and fungal biofilm formation is also discussed. Finally, the antiviral effects of silver and the use of silver nanoparticles against SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses are mentioned. To conclude, silver compounds are becoming increasingly important as antimicrobial agents, and their widespread use necessitates detailed understanding of microbial silver response and resistance mechanisms, as well as the ecological effects of silver compounds. Graphical abstract: Figure created with BioRender.com.[Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Article number158
JournalWorld Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


This review paper is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Dr. Fatma Neşe Kök, our beloved Head of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Istanbul Technical University (ITU), and Director of Dr. Orhan Öcalgiray Molecular Biology, Biotechnology and Genetics Research Center (ITU-MOBGAM), who passed away while this paper was under revision.

FundersFunder number
Biotechnology and Genetics Research Center
Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi


    • Antibiotic resistance
    • Antifungal resistance
    • Biofilm
    • Evolutionary engineering
    • SARS-CoV-2
    • Silver resistance
    • Stress resistance


    Dive into the research topics of 'Microbial silver resistance mechanisms: recent developments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this