Polystyrene nanoparticles trigger the activation of p38 MAPK and apoptosis via inducing oxidative stress in zebrafish and macrophage cells


• Nanoplastics pose great potential risks to environment and health.
• Nanoplastics could induce significant alterations in MAPK pathway in zebrafish larval.
• The induction of oxidative stress and inflammation were correlated with cell apoptosis.
• MAPK signaling pathway involved in the toxicity of nanoplastics to macrophage cells.


Polystyrene nanoparticles (PS NPs), originated from weathering breakdown of large plastic wastes, have already caused much concern for their environmental risks on health. This current study was aimed to reveal the toxicological mechanism of PS NPs on developing zebrafish and macrophage cells. To fulfill this purpose, 42 nm PS NPs were exposed to earlier development stage of zebrafish for 5 days, the decreased heart rate and locomotor activity of larval zebrafish were observed. The fluorescent PS NPs were used to precisely assess the accumulation of PS NPs in zebrafish, and the results indicated that PS NPs not only accumulated in digestive system, but also infiltrated into the liver. More importantly, the transcriptomic analysis revealed that a total of 356 genes were differentially expressed and the KEGG class map showed significant differences in the MAPK pathway upon PS NPs treatment. Meanwhile, the induction of oxidative stress and inflammation were also observed in larval zebrafish. Furthermore, RAW264.7 cells were exposed to different concentrations of PS NPs and the results confirmed that PS NPs exposure could result in up-regulation of p38 protein expression, enhance cell apoptosis and oxidative damage. Our study provides a new understanding of MAPK signaling pathway involved in toxicity mechanism.


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