Effects of oral administration of polystyrene nanoplastics on plasma glucose metabolism in mice

Chemosphere. 2022 Feb;288(Pt 3):132607. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.132607. Epub 2021 Oct 19.


Microplastic (MP) and nanoplastic (NP) induce neurotoxicity, cytotoxicity, and reproductive system toxicity in mammals. However, the impacts of NPs on the endocrine system are obscure. Here, monodisperse polystyrene nanoplastics (PS-NPs) were prepared by emulsion polymerization and the accumulation of fluorescent PS-NPs in various organs, including the liver, kidney, spleen, and pancreas, was examined. The oral administration of PS-NPs induced visceral organ injury, and the main toxicities were damage to hepatic function and the abnormity of lipid metabolism. Global transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) revealed the impact of PS-NPs on the genes involved in reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway, which is associated with glucose metabolism in mice. Chronic exposure to PS-NPs significantly increased plasma glucose levels and ROS levels, but did not affect plasma insulin secretion. The phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 at Ser307 was raised, which decreased the phosphorylation of Akt (at Ser473) in the PI3K/Akt pathway. Collectively, these findings suggested that the oral administration of PS-NPs significantly increased ROS, hepatic triglycerides, and cholesterol accumulation. The high levels of ROS disturbed the PI3K/Akt pathway, causing insulin resistance and increased plasma glucose in the mouse liver.

Keywords: Insulin resistance; Nanoplastics; Plasma glucose; Reactive oxygen species; Visceral organ injury.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Glucose
  • Mice
  • Microplastics
  • Nanoparticles* / toxicity
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Plastics
  • Polystyrenes*


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Polystyrenes
  • Glucose