Inhibitory effects of polystyrene microplastics on caudal fin regeneration in zebrafish larvae



• Microplastic exposure inhibited the caudal fin regeneration in zebrafish larvae.
• Regeneration-related signalings were altered after microplastic exposure.
• Changes of ROS signaling and immune response contributed to the inhibitory effects.
• Transcriptomic analyses suggested the metabolic pathways were also involved.
• Microplastics might impair the capacity for repair and regeneration in injured fish.



Microplastic pollution is pervasive in aquatic environments, but the potential effects of microplastics on aquatic organisms are still under debate. Given that tissue damage is unavoidable in fish and the available data mostly concentrate on healthy fish, there is a large chance that the ecotoxicological risk of microplastic pollution is underrated. Therefore, in this study, the effects of microplastics on the regenerative capacity of injured fish were investigated using a zebrafish caudal fin regeneration model. After fin amputation at 72 h post fertilization, the larvae were exposed to polystyrene microplastics (0.1–10 mg/L) with diameters of 50 or 500 nm. Microplastic exposure significantly inhibited fin regeneration, both morphologically and functionally. Furthermore, the signaling networks that regulate fin regeneration, as well as reactive oxygen species signaling and the immune response, both of which are essential for tissue repair and regeneration, were altered. Transcriptomic analyses of the regenerating fin confirmed that genes related to fin regeneration were transcriptionally modulated in response to microplastic exposure and that metabolic pathways were also extensively involved. In conclusion, this study demonstrated for the first time that microplastic exposure could disrupt the regenerative capacity of fish and might eventually impair their fitness in the wild.

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