Toxic effects of polystyrene nanoparticles on the development, escape locomotion, and lateral-line sensory function of zebrafish embryos

Li Yih Lin, Phunsin Kantha, Jiun Lin Horng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental pollution by micro- and nanosized plastic particles is a potential threat to aquatic animals. Polystyrene is one of the most common plastic particles in aquatic environments. Previous studies found that polystyrene nanoparticles (PNs) can penetrate the integument and accumulate in the organs of fish embryos. However, the potential impacts of PNs on fish embryos are not fully understood. To investigate this issue, zebrafish embryos were exposed to different concentrations (10, 25, and 50 mg/L) of PNs (25 nm) for 96 h (4–100 h post-fertilization), and various endpoints were examined, including developmental morphology (body length, sizes of the eyes, otic vesicles, otoliths, pericardial cavity, and yolk sac), locomotion (touch-evoked escape response and spinal motor neurons), and lateral-line function (hair cell number and hair bundle number). Exposure to 50 mg/L of PNs resulted in significant adverse effects across all endpoints studied, indicating that embryonic development was severely disrupted, and both locomotion and sensory function were impaired. However, at 25 mg/L of PNs, only locomotion and sensory function were significantly affected. The effects were insignificant in all examined endpoints at 10 mg/L of PNs. Transcript levels of several marker genes for neuronal function and eye development were suppressed after treatment. Exposure to fluorescent PNs showed that they accumulated in various organs including, the eyes, gills, blood vessels, gallbladder, gut, and lateral line neuromasts. Overall, this study suggests that short-term exposure to a high concentration of PNs can threaten fish survival by impairing embryonic development, locomotion performance, and mechanical sensory function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109701
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - C: Toxicology and Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Oct


  • Hair cell
  • Locomotion
  • Nanoparticle
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Polystyrene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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