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Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Toxicology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 August 2023) | Viewed by 12315

Special Issue Editors

Department of Biology, University of Firenze, 50121 Firenze, Italy
Interests: plant physiology; plant responses to abiotic stress; micro and nanoplastic effects on plants
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, 50134 Florence, Italy
Interests: microbiota-immunity axis; autoimmunity; cancers; inflammation; T cells; micro and nanoplastic effects on human
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It is undeniable that we live in a “plastic age”, in which the production of different plastic polymers has increased significantly to meet our growing needs. As a consequence, micro and nanoplastic (M/NPLs) particles are released into the environment from several sources, and the potential ecological and toxicological risks of these emerging pollutants have become a globally relevant issue. Today, micro and nanoplastics can be found in all environments, from soils and fresh waters to the deepest of the oceans, causing adverse effects on living organisms and entire ecosystems. M/NPLs enter the food chain and reach humans through ingestion, inhalation and contact with the skin, thus causing serious health problems. N/MPLs accumulating in human tissues may trigger a chronic inflammatory response, with an effect similar to that of asbestos fibers in the lungs, causing possible neoplastic transformation.

Considering the ubiquity and the threat of plastic pollution, this Special Issue aims to provide an updated overview of the molecular mechanism of the possible impact that micro and nanoplastics can have on living organisms from different environmental matrices, especially plants and humans.

Dr. Ilaria Colzi
Dr. Elena Niccolai
Dr. Amedeo Amedei
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • micro and nanoplastics
  • environmental pollution
  • micro and nanoplastic toxicity
  • human health

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 201 KiB  
Editorial
Adverse Effects of Micro- and Nanoplastics on Humans and the Environment
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(21), 15822; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms242115822 - 31 Oct 2023
Viewed by 914
Abstract
The pervasive pollution caused by nano- and microplastics (N/MPLs) is a pressing concern, and was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the substantial release of disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) into the environment [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

12 pages, 4249 KiB  
Article
Prenatal High-Fat Diet Combined with Microplastic Exposure Induces Liver Injury via Oxidative Stress in Male Pups
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(17), 13457; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241713457 - 30 Aug 2023
Viewed by 666
Abstract
Prenatal high-fat diet (HFD) or exposure to microplastics can affect the accumulation of liver fat in offspring. We sought to determine the effects of maternal HFD intake and microplastic exposure on fatty liver injury through oxidative stress in pups. Pregnant female Sprague–Dawley rats [...] Read more.
Prenatal high-fat diet (HFD) or exposure to microplastics can affect the accumulation of liver fat in offspring. We sought to determine the effects of maternal HFD intake and microplastic exposure on fatty liver injury through oxidative stress in pups. Pregnant female Sprague–Dawley rats were randomly divided into maternal HFD (experimental group) or normal control diet (NCD; control group) groups with or without microplastic exposure. As a result, the following groups were established: HFD-L (HFD + microplastics, 5 µm, 100 μg/L), HFD-H (HFD + microplastics, 5 µm, 1000 μg/L), NCD-L (NCD + microplastics, 5 µm, 100 μg/L), and NCD-H (NCD + microplastics, 5 µm, 1000 μg/L). The pups were sacrificed on postnatal day 7 (PD7). Liver histology revealed increased hepatic lipid accumulation in pups in the HFD-L and HFD-H groups compared to those in the HFD, NCD-L, NCD-H, and NCD groups on PD7. Similarly, liver TUNEL staining and cellular apoptosis were found to increase in pups in the HFD-L and HFD-H groups compared to those in the HFD, NCD-L, NCD-H, and NCD groups. The expression levels of malondialdehyde, a lipid peroxidation marker, were high in the HFD, HFD-L, and HFD-H groups; however, the highest expression was observed in the HFD-H group (p < 0.05). The levels of glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme, decreased in the HFD, HFD-L, and HFD-H groups (p < 0.05). Overall, oxidative stress with cellular apoptosis plays a vital role in liver injury in offspring after maternal intake of HFD and exposure to microplastic; such findings may shed light on future therapeutic strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)
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14 pages, 6309 KiB  
Article
Polystyrene Microplastics Exacerbate Systemic Inflammation in High-Fat Diet-Induced Obesity
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(15), 12421; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241512421 - 04 Aug 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1486
Abstract
Microplastics (MPs) are recognized as environmental pollutants with potential implications for human health. Considering the rapid increase in obesity rates despite stable caloric intake, there is a growing concern about the link between obesity and exposure to environmental pollutants, including MPs. In this [...] Read more.
Microplastics (MPs) are recognized as environmental pollutants with potential implications for human health. Considering the rapid increase in obesity rates despite stable caloric intake, there is a growing concern about the link between obesity and exposure to environmental pollutants, including MPs. In this study, we conducted a comprehensive investigation utilizing in silico, in vitro, and in vivo approaches to explore the brain distribution and physiological effects of MPs. Molecular docking simulations were performed to assess the binding affinity of three plastic polymers (ethylene, propylene, and styrene) to immune cells (macrophages, CD4+, and CD8+ lymphocytes). The results revealed that styrene exhibited the highest binding affinity for macrophages. Furthermore, in vitro experiments employing fluorescence-labeled PS-MPs (fPS-MPs) of 1 μm at various concentrations demonstrated a dose-dependent binding of fPS-MPs to BV2 murine microglial cells. Subsequent oral administration of fPS-MPs to high-fat diet-induced obese mice led to the co-existence of fPS-MPs with immune cells in the blood, exacerbating impaired glucose metabolism and insulin resistance and promoting systemic inflammation. Additionally, fPS-MPs were detected throughout the brain, with increased activation of microglia in the hypothalamus. These findings suggest that PS-MPs significantly contribute to the exacerbation of systemic inflammation in high-fat diet-induced obesity by activating peripheral and central inflammatory immune cells. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)
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25 pages, 4949 KiB  
Article
Assessing the Impact of Polyethylene Nano/Microplastic Exposure on Human Vaginal Keratinocytes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(14), 11379; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241411379 - 12 Jul 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1379
Abstract
The global rise of single-use throw-away plastic products has elicited a massive increase in the nano/microplastics (N/MPLs) exposure burden in humans. Recently, it has been demonstrated that disposable period products may release N/MPLs with usage, which represents a potential threat to women’s health [...] Read more.
The global rise of single-use throw-away plastic products has elicited a massive increase in the nano/microplastics (N/MPLs) exposure burden in humans. Recently, it has been demonstrated that disposable period products may release N/MPLs with usage, which represents a potential threat to women’s health which has not been scientifically addressed yet. By using polyethyl ene (PE) particles (200 nm to 9 μm), we showed that acute exposure to a high concentration of N/MPLs induced cell toxicity in vaginal keratinocytes after effective cellular uptake, as viability and apoptosis data suggest, along with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) observations. The internalised N/MPLs altered the expression of junctional and adherence proteins and the organisation of the actin cortex, influencing the level of genes involved in oxidative stress signalling pathways and that of miRNAs related to epithelial barrier function. When the exposure to PE N/MPLs was discontinued or became chronic, cells were able to recover from the negative effects on viability and differentiation/proliferation gene expression in a few days. However, in all cases, PE N/MPL exposure prompted a sustained alteration of DNA methyltransferase and DNA demethylase expression, which might impact epigenetic regulation processes, leading to accelerated cell ageing and inflammation, or the occurrence of malignant transformation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)
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13 pages, 37121 KiB  
Article
Toxicity and Biodistribution of Fragmented Polypropylene Microplastics in ICR Mice
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(10), 8463; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24108463 - 09 May 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2049
Abstract
Currently, polypropylene (PP) is used in various products, thus leading to high daily exposure in humans. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate the toxicological effects, biodistribution, and accumulation of PP microplastics in the human body. In this study, administration of two particle sizes [...] Read more.
Currently, polypropylene (PP) is used in various products, thus leading to high daily exposure in humans. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate the toxicological effects, biodistribution, and accumulation of PP microplastics in the human body. In this study, administration of two particle sizes of PP microplastics (approximately 5 and 10–50 µm) did not lead to any significant changes in several toxicological evaluation parameters, including body weight and pathological examination, compared with the control group in ICR mice. Therefore, the approximate lethal dose and no-observed-adverse-effect level of PP microplastics in ICR mice were established as ≥2000 mg/kg. Furthermore, we manufactured cyanine 5.5 carboxylic acid (Cy5.5-COOH)-labeled fragmented PP microplastics to monitor real-time in vivo biodistribution. After oral administration of the Cy5.5-COOH-labeled microplastics to the mice, most of the PP microplastics were detected in the gastrointestinal tract and observed to be out of the body after 24 h in IVIS Spectrum CT. Therefore, this study provides a new insight into the short-term toxicity, distribution, and accumulation of PP microplastics in mammals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)
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12 pages, 4018 KiB  
Article
Polystyrene Microplastics Induce Oxidative Stress in Mouse Hepatocytes in Relation to Their Size
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(8), 7382; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24087382 - 17 Apr 2023
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1730
Abstract
Microplastics have become a new type of environmental pollutant that can accumulate in various tissues and organs of the body and cause chronic damage. In this study, two different size polystyrene microplastics (PS-MPs, 5 μm and 0.5 μm) exposure models were established in [...] Read more.
Microplastics have become a new type of environmental pollutant that can accumulate in various tissues and organs of the body and cause chronic damage. In this study, two different size polystyrene microplastics (PS-MPs, 5 μm and 0.5 μm) exposure models were established in mice to investigate the effects of PS-MPs with different particle sizes on oxidative stress in the liver. The results showed that PS-MPs exposure caused a decrease in body weight and liver-to-body weight. The hematoxylin and eosin staining and transmission electron microscopy results showed that exposure to PS-MPs led to the disorganized cellular structure of liver tissue, nuclear crinkling, and mitochondrial vacuolation. The extent of damage in the 5 μm PS-MP exposure group was more extensive when compared with the other group. The evaluation of oxidative-stress-related indicators showed that PS-MPs exposure exacerbated oxidative stress in hepatocytes, especially in the 5 μm PS-MPs group. The expression of oxidative-stress-related proteins sirtuin 3(SIRT3) and superoxide dismutase (SOD2) was significantly reduced, and the reduction was more pronounced in the 5 μm PS-MPs group. In conclusion, PS-MPs exposure led to oxidative stress in mouse hepatocytes and caused more severe damage in the 5 μm PS-MPs group when compared with the 0.5 μm PS-MPs group. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)
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12 pages, 1835 KiB  
Article
Polymer Chemical Identity as a Key Factor in Microplastic–Insecticide Antagonistic Effects during Embryogenesis of Sea Urchin Arbacia lixula
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(4), 4136; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24044136 - 18 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1332
Abstract
As a proxy for pollutants that may be simultaneously present in urban wastewater streams, the effects of two microplastics—polystyrene (PS; 10, 80 and 230 μm diameter) and polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA; 10 and 50 μm diameter)—on fertilisation and embryogenesis in the sea urchin Arbacia lixula [...] Read more.
As a proxy for pollutants that may be simultaneously present in urban wastewater streams, the effects of two microplastics—polystyrene (PS; 10, 80 and 230 μm diameter) and polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA; 10 and 50 μm diameter)—on fertilisation and embryogenesis in the sea urchin Arbacia lixula with co-exposure to the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin were investigated. Synergistic or additive effects were not seen for plastic microparticles (50 mg L−1) in combination with cypermethrin (10 and 1000 μg L−1) based on evaluation of skeletal abnormalities or arrested development and death of significant numbers of larvae during the embryotoxicity assay. This behaviour was also apparent for male gametes pretreated with PS and PMMA microplastics and cypermethrin, where a reduction in sperm fertilisation ability was not evidenced. However, a modest reduction in the quality of the offspring was noted, suggesting that there may be some transmissible damage to the zygotes. PMMA microparticles were more readily taken up than PS microparticles, which could suggest surface chemical identity as potentially modulating the affinity of larvae for specific plastics. In contrast, significantly reduced toxicity was noted for the combination of PMMA microparticles and cypermethrin (100 μg L−1), and may be related to less ready desorption of the pyrethroid than PS, as well as cypermethrin activating mechanisms that result in reduced feeding and hence decreased ingestion of microparticles. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)
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22 pages, 2945 KiB  
Article
Dose-Dependent Cytotoxicity of Polypropylene Microplastics (PP-MPs) in Two Freshwater Fishes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(22), 13878; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms232213878 - 10 Nov 2022
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1837
Abstract
The massive accumulation of plastics over the decades in the aquatic environment has led to the dispersion of plastic components in aquatic ecosystems, invading the food webs. Plastics fragmented into microplastics can be bioaccumulated by fishes via different exposure routes, causing several adverse [...] Read more.
The massive accumulation of plastics over the decades in the aquatic environment has led to the dispersion of plastic components in aquatic ecosystems, invading the food webs. Plastics fragmented into microplastics can be bioaccumulated by fishes via different exposure routes, causing several adverse effects. In the present study, the dose-dependent cytotoxicity of 8–10 μm polypropylene microplastics (PP-MPs), at concentrations of 1 mg/g (low dose) and 10 mg/g dry food (high dose), was evaluated in the liver and gill tissues of two fish species, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) and the freshwater perch (Perca fluviatilis). According to our results, the inclusion of PP-MPs in the feed of D. rerio and P. fluviatilis hampered the cellular function of the gills and hepatic cells by lipid peroxidation, DNA damage, protein ubiquitination, apoptosis, autophagy, and changes in metabolite concentration, providing evidence that the toxicity of PP-MPs is dose dependent. With regard to the individual assays tested in the present study, the biggest impact was observed in DNA damage, which exhibited a maximum increase of 18.34-fold in the liver of D. rerio. The sensitivity of the two fish species studied differed, while no clear tissue specificity in both fish species was observed. The metabolome of both tissues was altered in both treatments, while tryptophan and nicotinic acid exhibited the greatest decrease among all metabolites in all treatments in comparison to the control. The battery of biomarkers used in the present study as well as metabolomic changes could be suggested as early-warning signals for the assessment of the aquatic environment quality against MPs. In addition, our results contribute to the elucidation of the mechanism induced by nanomaterials on tissues of aquatic organisms, since comprehending the magnitude of their impact on aquatic ecosystems is of great importance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Human Adverse Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics)
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