Hazard assessment of ingested polystyrene nanoplastics in Drosophila larvae†
Micro- and nanoplastics (MNPLs) are intentionally produced for commercial uses (primary MNPLs) or are formed from environmentally aged plastics (secondary MNPLs). Independent of their origin, all of them will finally end up in the environment constituting some of the known emergent pollutants. Despite the inert nature of plastics, questions about their potential biological effects on human health need to find sound answers. In addition, the association between the potentially induced effects and the MNPL size is also required to be known. In this context, we have used our in vivo model of Drosophila larvae and three nanopolystyrene plastics (PSNPLs) sized 50, 200, and 500 nm (PS-50, PS-200, and PS-500) to add new data to better understand the potential health risks of MNPLs. Our model has permitted us to visualize (via transmission electron microscopy, TEM) the journey of the PSNPLs administered via ingestion, their interaction with gut lumen components (including symbiotic microbiota), their uptake by gut enterocytes, their translocation through the intestinal barrier to the hemolymph, and their uptake by hemocytes. This behavior was observed for the three analyzed sizes and, for the largest sizes, changes in size/shape were observed in ingested PSNPLs. Although no relevant toxicity, as measured by the egg-to-adult viability, was observed, exposure induced a wide molecular response altering the expression of genes involved in the general stress response, in the antioxidant response and even in the genotoxicity response, as well as in genes related to the intestinal damage response. Furthermore, a general induction of ROS production and DNA damage was also detected. Interestingly, these types of responses were size-dependent with the small PSNPL size inducing a higher response.