The in vitro gastrointestinal digestion-associated protein corona of polystyrene nano- and microplastics increases their uptake by human THP-1-derived macrophages

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Abstract

Background: Micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) represent one of the most widespread environmental pollutants of the twenty-first century to which all humans are orally exposed. Upon ingestion, MNPs pass harsh biochemical conditions within the gastrointestinal tract, causing a unique protein corona on the MNP surface. Little is known about the digestion-associated protein corona and its impact on the cellular uptake of MNPs. Here, we systematically studied the influence of gastrointestinal digestion on the cellular uptake of neutral and charged polystyrene MNPs using THP-1-derived macrophages. Results: The protein corona composition was quantified using LC‒MS–MS-based proteomics, and the cellular uptake of MNPs was determined using flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. Gastrointestinal digestion resulted in a distinct protein corona on MNPs that was retained in serum-containing cell culture medium. Digestion increased the uptake of uncharged MNPs below 500 nm by 4.0–6.1-fold but did not affect the uptake of larger sized or charged MNPs. Forty proteins showed a good correlation between protein abundance and MNP uptake, including coagulation factors, apolipoproteins and vitronectin. Conclusion: This study provides quantitative data on the presence of gastrointestinal proteins on MNPs and relates this to cellular uptake, underpinning the need to include the protein corona in hazard assessment of MNPs. Graphical abstract: (Figure presented.)

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • Endocytosis
  • In vitro gastrointestinal digestion
  • LC‒MS–MS
  • Macrophage
  • Polystyrene
  • Protein corona
  • Proteomics
  • THP-1

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