Tissue accumulation of microplastics in mice and biomarker responses suggest widespread health risks of exposure

Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 24:7:46687. doi: 10.1038/srep46687.


Microplastics (MPs) are a significant environmental health issue and increasingly greater source of concern. MPs have been detected in oceans, rivers, sediments, sewages, soil and even table salts. MPs exposure on marine organisms and humans has been documented, but information about the toxicity of MPs in mammal is limited. Here we used fluorescent and pristine polystyrene microplastics (PS-MPs) particles with two diameters (5 μm and 20 μm) to investigate the tissue distribution, accumulation, and tissue-specific health risk of MPs in mice. Results indicated that MPs accumulated in liver, kidney and gut, with a tissue-accumulation kinetics and distribution pattern that was strongly depended on the MPs particle size. In addition, analyses of multiple biochemical biomarkers and metabolomic profiles suggested that MPs exposure induced disturbance of energy and lipid metabolism as well as oxidative stress. Interestingly, blood biomarkers of neurotoxicity were also altered. Our results uncovered the distribution and accumulation of MPs across mice tissues and revealed significant alteration in several biomarkers that indicate potential toxicity from MPs exposure. Collectively, our data provided new evidence for the adverse consequences of MPs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Particle Size
  • Polystyrenes / chemistry
  • Polystyrenes / metabolism*
  • Polystyrenes / pharmacokinetics
  • Risk Factors
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / pharmacokinetics


  • Biomarkers
  • Polystyrenes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical