The impact of nanoplastics using model polystyrene nanoparticles (PS NPs), anionic (PS-COOH) and cationic (PS-NH2), has been investigated on the marine rotifer Brachionus plicatilis, a major component of marine zooplanktonic species. The role of different surface charges in affecting PS NP behaviour and toxicity has been considered in high ionic strength media. To this aim, the selected media were standardized reconstituted seawater (RSW) and natural sea water (NSW), the latter resembling more natural exposure scenarios. Hatched rotifer larvae were exposed for 24 h and 48 h to both PS NPs in the range of 0.5–50 μg/ml using PS NP suspensions made in RSW and NSW. No effects on lethality upon exposure to anionic NPs were observed despite a clear gut retention was evident in all exposed rotifers. On the contrary, cationic NPs caused lethality to rotifer larvae but LC50 values resulted lower in rotifers exposed in RSW (LC50=2.75±0.67 µg/ml) compared to those exposed in NSW (LC50=6.62±0.87 µg/ml). PS NPs showed similar pattern of aggregation in both high ionic strength media (RSW and NSW) but while anionic NPs resulted in large microscale aggregates (Z-average 1109 ± 128 nm and 998±67 nm respectively), cationic NP aggregates were still in nano-size forms (93.99 ± 11.22 nm and 108.3 ± 12.79 nm). Both PDI and Z-potential of PS NPs slightly differed in the two media suggesting a role of their different surface charges in affecting their behaviour and stability. Our findings confirm the role of surface charges in nanoplastic behaviour in salt water media and provide a first evidence of a different toxicity in rotifers using artificial media (RSW) compared to natural one (NSW). Such evidence poses the question on how to select the best medium in standardized ecotoxicity assays in order to properly assess their hazard to marine life in natural environmental scenarios.
L. Manfra, A. Rotini, E. Bergami and al., Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Volume 145, November 2017, Pages 557-563