Polystyrene nano- and microplastic accumulation at Arabidopsis and wheat root cap cells, but no evidence for uptake into roots†
Association of plastic particles with plant roots could represent a pathway for human consumption of plastic and plastic-associated organic contaminants. Here, we investigated the uptake of spherical, negatively-charged, polystyrene nano- and microparticles by plant roots. We used negatively-charged, 40 nm and 1 μm fluorescently-labeled polystyrene spheres and two plant species: Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and wheat (Triticum aestivum). Plants were grown from seeds to 5 days for wheat and 12 days for Arabidopsis, in agar growth media containing plastic spheres (0.029 g L−1), and plant uptake of spheres was investigated by laser scanning confocal microscopy and pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The confocal images of both plant species showed no evidence for active uptake of nano- and microsized polystyrene spheres during plant growth up to the 1 to 2 leaf growth stage. Pyrolysis GC-MS was unsuccessful because of the occurrence of natural styrene monomers in plant roots and insufficient detection limits. Both 40 nm and 1 μm polystyrene spheres accumulated at the root surface of each species, particularly at the root tip, and were still found attached to the root surface after washing. However, there was no evidence of plastic particles in the internal root structure. Our results demonstrate the association and accumulation of plastics at root surface and cap cells.