Infiltration of freshwater food chain by nanoplastics : An examination of trophic transfer and biological impact

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Original languageEnglish
Article number140541
Journal / PublicationChemosphere
Online published27 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


The contamination of freshwater by nanoplastics (NPs) poses a significant threat to various organisms. However, the influence of food factors on the NPs toxicity and the associated risks to water safety remains poorly understood. In this study, we employed highly fluorescent NPs incorporating aggregation-induced emission fluorogens to quantify and visualize the interactions of NPs with freshwater phytoplanktonic alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and zooplankton Daphnia magna, including the uptake of NPs by algae and daphnids, as well as gut environment responses through both waterborne and foodborne routes. NPs at environmentally relevant concentrations were capable of aggregating and internalizing in planktonic algae, thus permeating the food chain and potentially causing ecological risks. Notably, positively charged NPs exhibited greater infiltration than the negatively charged NPs. Our findings indicated that NPs had a greater tendency to accumulate in Daphnia via the food chain rather than through direct exposure to water. This was attributed to the loss of selectivity, suggesting a potential mechanism for NP accumulation in aquatic food chains. However, daphnids exposed to NPs through waterborne route exhibited more gut pH acidification, esterase activity, and gut inflammation compared to those exposed via the foodborne route. Moreover, chronic exposure to NPs through waterborne routes significantly disrupted the growth, molting, and reproduction of Daphnia compared to the foodborne group. These findings provided valuable insights into the complexities of plastic pollution on primary trophic levels in aquatic environments. © 2023 Elsevier Ltd.

Research Area(s)

  • Ecological risks, Food factors, Freshwater organisms, Nanoplastics, Trophic transfer