Microplastics role in cell migration and distribution during cancer cell division

  • Ekaterina Brynzak-Schreiber
  • Elisabeth Schögl
  • Carolin Bapp
  • Klaudia Cseh
  • Verena Kopatz
  • Michael A Jakupec
  • Andreas Weber
  • Tobias Lange
  • José L Toca-Herrera
  • Giorgia Del Favero
  • Wolfgang Wadsak
  • Lukas Kenner
  • Verena Pichler


Amidst the global plastic pollution crisis, the gastrointestinal tract serves as the primary entry point for daily exposure to micro- and nanoplastics. We investigated the complex dynamics between polystyrene micro- and nanoplastics (PS-MNPs) and four distinct human colorectal cancer cell lines (HT29, HCT116, SW480, and SW620). Our findings revealed a significant size- and concentration dependent uptake of 0.25, 1, and 10 μm PS-MNPs across all cell lines, with HCT116 cells exhibiting the highest uptake rates. During cell division, particles were distributed between mother and daughter cells. Interestingly, we observed no signs of elimination from the cells. Short-term exposure to 0.25 μm particles significantly amplified cell migration, potentially leading to pro-metastatic effects. Particles demonstrated high persistence in 2D and 3D cultures, and accumulation in non-proliferating parts of spheroids, without interfering with cell proliferation or division. Our study unveils the disturbing fact of the persistence and bioaccumulation of MNPs in colorectal cancer cell lines, key toxicological traits under REACH (Regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). Our observations underscore the potential of MNPs as hidden catalysts for tumor progression, particularly through enhancing cell migration and possibly fueling metastasis - a finding that sheds light on a significant and previously underexplored area of concern.

Bibliographical data

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 04.2024

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Copyright © 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

PubMed 38423146