In this study, we evaluated accumulation and adverse effects of ingestion of microplastics in the monogonont rotifer (Brachionus koreanus). The dependence of microplastic toxicity on particle size was investigated by measuring several in vivo end points and studying the ingestion and egestion using 0.05-, 0.5-, and 6-μm nonfunctionalized polystyrene microbeads. To identify the defense mechanisms activated in response to microplastic exposure, the activities of several antioxidant-related enzymes and the phosphorylation status of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) were determined. Exposure to polystyrene microbeads of all sizes led to significant size-dependent effects, including reduced growth rate, reduced fecundity, decreased lifespan and longer reproduction time. Rotifers exposed to 6-μm fluorescently labeled microbeads exhibited almost no fluorescence after 24 h, while rotifers exposed to 0.05- and 0.5-μm fluorescently labeled microbeads displayed fluorescence until 48 h, suggesting that 6-μm microbeads are more effectively egested from B. koreanus than 0.05- or 0.5-μm microbeads. This observation provides a potential explanation for our findings that microbead toxicity was size-dependent and smaller microbeads were more toxic. In vitro tests revealed that antioxidant-related enzymes and MAPK signaling pathways were significantly activated in response to microplastic exposure in a size-dependent manner.
Chang-Bum Jeong, Eun-Ji Won, Hye-Min Kang, Min-Chul Lee, Dae-Sik Hwang, Un-Ki Hwang, Bingsheng Zhou, Sami Souissi, Su-Jae Lee, and Jae-Seong Lee, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2016, 50 (16), pp 8849–8857