Acute exposure to polystyrene nanoplastics impairs skin cells and ion regulation in zebrafish embryos

Phunsin Kantha, Sian Tai Liu, Jiun Lin Horng, Li Yih Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The presence of nanoplastics in aquatic environments is a global problem. Accumulating evidence shows that nanoplastics can accumulate in fish and influence internal organs. However, it is still unknown if nanoplastics can impair skin cells (keratinocytes and ionocytes), which play critical roles in maintaining body fluid homeostasis. In the present study, zebrafish embryos were exposed to polystyrene nanoplastics (PS-NPs; 25 nm in size, at 0, 10, 25, and 50 mg/L) for 96 h to test the effects of PS-NPs on skin functions. After exposure to 50 mg/L, the survival rate, ion (Na+, K+, and Ca2+) contents, and acid/ammonia excretion by skin cells of embryos significantly declined. The apical structure of skin keratinocytes was damaged at 10, 25, and 50 mg/L. The number and mitochondrial activity of ionocytes were reduced at 25 and 50 mg/L. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels indicated by CellROX staining showed that both ionocytes and keratinocytes were under oxidative stress. PS-NPs reduced the mRNA expression of antioxidant genes (sod1, sod2, cat, and gpx1a), and promoted apoptosis-related genes (casp3a). Taken together, this study suggests that PS-NPs might suppress antioxidative reactions and induce oxidative stress, leading to mitochondrial damage and cell death of ionocytes, eventually impairing skin functions including ion uptake, pH regulation, and ammonia excretion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106203
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jul


  • Ion regulation
  • Nanoparticle
  • Oxidative stress
  • Polystyrene
  • Skin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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