Environ. Sci. Technol. 52 (24) 14392-14401 [2018-12-18; online 2018-12-05]
Ingestion has been proposed as a prominent exposure route for plastic debris in aquatic organisms, including fish. While the consequences of ingestion of large plastic litter are mostly understood, the impacts resulting from ingestion of microplastics (MPs) are largely unknown. We designed a study that aimed to assess impacts of MPs on fish intestinal physiology and examined integrity of extrinsic, physical and immunological barriers. Rainbow trout were exposed to polystyrene (PS) MPs (100-400 μm) via feed for a period of 4 weeks. Fish were fed four types of diets: control, diets containing virgin PS particles, or particles exposed to two different environmental matrices (sewage or harbor effluent). Extrinsic barrier disturbance in intestinal tissue was evaluated via histology. The paracellular permeability toward ions and molecules was examined using Ussing chambers and mRNA expression analysis of tight junction proteins. Active transport was monitored as transepithelial potential difference, short-circuits current and uptake rate of amino acid 3H-lysine. Immune status parameters were measured through mRNA expression level of cytokines, lysozyme activity, and hematological analysis of immune cells. We could not show that PS MPs induced inflammatory responses or acted as physical or chemical hazards upon ingestion. No measurable effects were exerted on fish intestinal permeability, active transport or electrophysiology.