Detection, biophysical effects, and toxicity of polystyrene nanoparticles to the cnidarian Hydra attenuata

Joëlle Auclair, Brian Quinn, Caroline Peyrot, Kevin James Wilkinson, François Gagné*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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The occurrence of nanoplastic particles (NPs) in the environment has raised concerns about the ecotoxicological risk to aquatic ecosystems. The purpose of this study was to examine the bioavailability and toxicity of 50- and 100-nm transparent polystyrene NPs to the cnidarian Hydra attenuata. The hydras were exposed to increasing concentrations of 50- and 100-nm NPs (1.25, 2.5, 5, 10, 20, 40, and 80 mg/L) for 96 h at 20 °C followed by a 24-h depuration step. Hydras were analyzed for morphological changes, bioaccumulation of NPs using a novel assay for polystyrene NPs, oxidative stress (lipid peroxidation), polar lipids, lipid-like liquid crystals (LCs), and viscosity changes in the post-mitochondrial fraction. The results revealed that the organisms accumulated detectable amounts of NP in a concentration-dependent manner for both the 50- and 100-nm NP that persisted after 24 h in clean media. Changes in morphology were observed with a 50% effect concentration of 3.6 and 18 mg/L for the 50- and 100-nm-diameter NPs respectively. However, based on the particle concentration, the 100 nm proved to be 1.7 times more toxic than the 50-nm NPs. Exposure to NPs led to decreased biomass, lipid peroxidation (LPO), increased polar lipid levels, viscosity, and formation of LCs at the intracellular level. In the more toxic NP (100 nm), NPs in tissues were correlated with LCs, polar lipids, and LPO levels. It appears that the formation of organized LCs and polar lipids of NPs in cells was involved with NP toxicity and could represent a yet unidentified, detoxifying/bioactivation mechanism against colloidal plastics in cells. In conclusion, NPs are bioavailable to hydra and lead to LPO and lipid mobilization in hydra. The capacity of increasing lipid mobilization and LCs could determine the size-dependence toxicity of NPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11772-11781
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2020


  • Hydra
  • Nanoplastics
  • Neutral lipids
  • Oxidative stress
  • Polystyrene


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