How sea urchins face microplastics: Uptake, tissue distribution and immune system response

Date of publication 29 June 2020

Authors Murano, Carola; Agnisola, Claudio; Caramiello, Davide; Castellano, Immacolata; Casotti, Raffaella; Corsi, Ilaria; Palumbo, Anna.

Sources Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987) : 264, 114685.



Plastic pollution represents one of the major threats to the marine environment. A wide range of marine organisms has been shown to ingest microplastics due to their small dimensions (less than 1 mm). This negatively affects some biological processes, such as feeding, energy reserves and reproduction. Very few studies have been performed on the effect of microplastics on sea urchin development and virtually none on adults. The aim of this work was to evaluate the uptake and distribution of fluorescent labelled polystyrene microbeads (micro-PS) in the Mediterranean sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus and the potential impact on circulating immune cells. Differential uptake was observed in the digestive and water vascular systems as well as in the gonads based on microbeads size (10 and 45 μm in diameter). Treatment of sea urchins with particles of both sizes induced an increase of the total number of immune cells already after 24 h. No significant differences were observed among immune cell types. However, the ratio between red and white amoebocytes, indicative of sea urchin healthy status, increased with both particles. This effect was detectable already at 24 h upon exposure to smaller micro-PS (10 μm). An increase of intracellular levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species was observed at 24 h upon both micro-PS exposure, whereas at later time these levels became comparable to those of controls. A significant increase of total antioxidant capacity was observed after treatment with 10 μm micro-PS. Overall data provide the first evidence on polystyrene microbeads uptake and tissue distribution in sea urchins, indicating a stress-related impact on circulating immune cells.

Comments area

Leave a Reply