Microplastics represent a growing environmental concern for the oceans due to their potential of adsorbing chemical pollutants, thus representing a still unexplored source of exposure for aquatic organisms. In this study polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) microplastics were shown to adsorb pyrene with a time and dose-dependent relationship. Results also indicated a marked capability of contaminated microplastics to transfer this model PAH to exposed mussels Mytilus galloprovincialis; tissue localization of microplastics occurred in haemolymph, gills and especially digestive tissues where a marked accumulation of pyrene was also observed. Cellular effects included alterations of immunological responses, lysosomal compartment, peroxisomal proliferation, antioxidant system, neurotoxic effects, onset of genotoxicity; changes in gene expression profile was also demonstrated through a new DNA microarray platform. The study provided the evidence that microplastics adsorb PAHs, emphasizing an elevated bioavailability of these chemicals after the ingestion, and the toxicological implications due to responsiveness of several molecular and cellular pathways to microplastics.
Carlo Giacomo Avio, Stefania Gorbi, Massimo Milan and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 198, Pages 211–222, March 2015