Quantitative investigation of the mechanisms of microplastics and nanoplastics toward zebrafish larvae locomotor activity

This study investigated the direct and indirect toxic effects of microplastics and nanoplastics toward zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae locomotor activity. Results showed that microplastics alone exhibited no significant effects except for the upregulated zfrho visual gene expression; whereas nanoplastics inhibited the larval locomotion by 22% during the last darkness period, and significantly reduced larvae body length by 6%, inhibited the acetylcholinesterase activity by 40%, and upregulated gfap, α1-tubulin, zfrho and zfblue gene expression significantly. When co-exposed with 2 μg/L 17 α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), microplastics led to alleviation on EE2’s inhibition effect on locomotion, which was probably due to the decreased freely dissolved EE2 concentration. However, though nanoplastics showed stronger adsorption ability for EE2, the hypoactivity phenomenon still existed in the nanoplastics co-exposure group. Moreover, when co-exposed with a higher concentration of EE2 (20 μg/L), both plastics showed an enhanced effect on the hypoactivity. Principal component analysis was performed to reduce data dimensions and four principal components were reconstituted in terms of oxidative stress, body length, nervous and visual system related genes explaining 84% of total variance. Furthermore, oxidative damage and body length reduction were evaluated to be main reasons for the hypoactivity. Therefore, nanoplastics alone suppressed zebrafish larvae locomotor activity and both plastic particles can change the larvae swimming behavior when co-exposed with EE2. This study provides new insights into plastic particles’ effects on zebrafish larvae, improving the understanding of their environmental risks to the aquatic environment.

Qiqing Chen, Michael Gundlach, Shouye Yang and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 584–585, 15 April 2017, Pages 1022–1031

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