Environmental exposure enhances the internalization of microplastic particles into cells
A. F. R. M. Ramsperger, V. K. B. Narayana, W. Gross, J. Mohanraj, M. Thelakkat, A. Greiner, H. Schmalz, H. Kress, and C. Laforsch
Science Advances 2020 Vol. 6, no. 50, eabd1211
Microplastic particles ubiquitously found in the environment are ingested by a huge variety of organisms. Subsequently, microplastic particles can translocate from the gastrointestinal tract into the tissues likely by cellular internalization. The reason for cellular internalization is unknown, since this has only been shown for specifically surface-functionalized particles. We show that environmentally exposed microplastic particles were internalized significantly more often than pristine microplastic particles into macrophages. We identified biomolecules forming an eco-corona on the surface of microplastic particles, suggesting that environmental exposure promotes the cellular internalization of microplastics. Our findings further indicate that cellular internalization is a key route by which microplastic particles translocate into tissues, where they may cause toxicological effects that have implications for the environment and human health.