Gut Microbiota Participates in Polystyrene Microplastics-Induced Hepatic Injuries by Modulating the Gut-Liver Axis

ACS Nano. 2023 Aug 8;17(15):15125-15145. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.3c04449. Epub 2023 Jul 24.


Dietary pollution by polystyrene microplastics (MPs) can cause hepatic injuries and microbial dysbiosis. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the major polyphenol in green tea, exerts beneficial effects on the liver by modulating the gut microbiota. However, the role of microbiota in MPs-induced hepatic injuries and the protective effect of EGCG have not been clarified. Here, 5 μm MPs were orally administered to mice to induce hepatic injuries. Subsequently, antibiotic cocktail (ABX) and fecal microbial transplant (FMT) experiments were performed to investigate the underlying microbial mechanisms. Additionally, EGCG was orally administered to mice to explore its protection against MPs-induced hepatic injuries. Our results showed that MPs activated systemic and hepatic inflammation, promoted fibrosis, and altered the liver metabolome; meanwhile, MPs damaged the gut homeostasis by disturbing the gut microbiome, promoting colonic inflammation, and impairing the intestinal barrier. Notably, MPs reduced the abundance of the probiotics Akkermansia, Mucispirillum, and Faecalibaculum while increasing the pathogenic Tuzzerella. Interestingly, the elimination of gut microbiota mitigated MPs-induced colonic inflammation and intestinal barrier impairment. Moreover, ABX ameliorated MPs-induced systemic and hepatic inflammation but not fibrosis. Correspondingly, microbiota from MPs-administered mice induced colonic, systemic, and hepatic inflammation, while their profibrosis effect on the liver was not observed. Finally, EGCG elevated the abundance of probiotics and effectively repressed MPs-induced colonic inflammation. MPs-induced systemic and hepatic inflammation, fibrosis, and remodeling of the liver metabolome were also attenuated by EGCG. These findings illustrated that gut microbiota contributed to MPs-induced colonic and hepatic injuries, while EGCG could serve as a potential prevention strategy for these adverse consequences.

Keywords: epigallocatechin-3-gallate; gut microbiota; gut−liver axis; hepatic injuries; polystyrene microplastics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Inflammation
  • Mice
  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Polystyrenes / pharmacology


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Polystyrenes