Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) enhanced polystyrene particles uptake by human colon adenocarcinoma Caco-2 cells

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Yaxuan Liu
  • Qingying Shi
  • Xiaomei Liu
  • Lan Wang
  • Jingchun Tang

Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Article number157640
Journal / PublicationScience of the Total Environment
Online published27 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2022


As microplastics and nanoplastics (MNPs) are widely distributed in the environment and can be transferred to human body through food chain, their potential impact on human health is of great concern. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is persistent, bioaccumulative and can be adsorbed by MNPs. However, there are few studies on the combined human health effects of MNPs with PFOS. In this study, the effects of polystyrene (PS) particles and PFOS on human colon adenocarcinoma cell Caco-2 were investigated in vitro to explore the combined toxicity from cellular level, and the toxic mechanism was further illustrated. Results showed that the presence of PFOS significantly increased the cell uptake of PS nanoparticles by >30 %, which is related to variations of the surface properties of PS particles, including the decrease of hydration kinetic diameter, the rise of surface potential and the adsorption of hydrophobic PFOS molecules. The toxic effect of PFOS was weakened in the presence of PS particles under low PFOS concentration (10 μg/mL), which is because the bioavailability of PFOS was reduced after adsorption. PS particles with small particle size (20 nm) showed higher cell uptake and ROS production, while PS particles with large particle size (1 μm) led to higher lipid oxidation degree and related membrane damage as well as mitochondrial stress. This study provides the first evaluation of combined toxicity of MNPs and PFOS on human intestinal cells, in order to support the risk assessment of combined pollution of MNPs and PFOS on human health.

Research Area(s)

  • Bioavailability, Cytotoxicity, In vitro, Microplastics, PFOS

Citation Format(s)