After chronic administration of a dilute solution of silver nitrate in drinking water to rats, mice, and guinea pigs, granular deposits of metallic silver were detected in electron micrographs of the kidney, liver, thyroid, and pancreas. The silver deposits were in the form of extremely dense, angular particles with sharp outlines. They varied from aggregates a few microns in diameter down to granules at the limit of resolution of the electron microscope.
The principal sites of deposition were (1) basement membranes, especially those of the renal glomeruli, proximal convoluted tubules, and various glands, and those associated with vascular endothelium, and (2) the cytoplasm of fixed and free macrophages. Both in Kupffer cells lining hepatic sinusoids and in the wandering macrophages of other tissues, the silver was segregated in discrete vacuoles. In addition, granular deposits were observed in occasional vesicular structures in the proximal convoluted tubules of the kidney, the hepatic cells, and the pancreatic acinar cell. These structures, in favorable preparations, contained an outer double layered membrane and internal folds similar to those of mitochondria, from which they appear to have been derived. The significance of these findings in heavy metal poisoning and in cellular physiology is briefly discussed.