Maternal exposure to polystyrene microplastics alters placental metabolism in mice Academic Article uri icon

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  • Introduction

    The rapid growth in the worldwide use of plastics has resulted in a vast accumulation of microplastics in the air, soil and water. The impact of these microplastics on pregnancy and fetal development remains largely unknown. In pregnant mice, we recently demonstrated that exposure to micro- and nanoplastics throughout gestation resulted in significant fetal growth restriction. One possible explanation for reduced fetal growth is abnormal placental metabolism.


    To evaluate the effect of maternal exposure to microplastics on placental metabolism.


    In the present study, CD-1 pregnant mice were exposed to 5 μm polystyrene microplastics in filtered drinking water at one of four concentrations (0 ng/L (controls), 102 ng/L, 104 ng/L, 106 ng/L) throughout gestation (n = 7-11/group). At embryonic day 17.5, placental tissue samples were collected (n = 28-44/group). Metabolite profiles were determined using 1 H high-resolution magic angle spinning magnetic resonance spectroscopy.


    The relative concentration of lysine (p = 0.003) and glucose (p < 0.0001) in the placenta were found to decrease with increasing microplastic concentrations, with a significant reduction at the highest exposure concentration. Multivariate analysis identified shifts in the metabolic profile with MP exposure and pathway analysis identified perturbations in the biotin metabolism, lysine degradation, and glycolysis/gluconeogenesis pathways.


    Maternal exposure to microplastics resulted in significant alterations in placental metabolism. This study highlights the potential impact of microplastic exposure on pregnancy outcomes and that efforts should be made to minimize exposure to plastics, particularly during pregnancy.


  • Aghaei, Zahra
  • Mercer, Grace V
  • Schneider, Céline M
  • Sled, John G
  • Macgowan, Christopher K
  • Baschat, Ahmet A
  • Kingdom, John C
  • Helm, Paul A
  • Simpson, André J
  • Simpson, Myrna J
  • Jobst, Karl
  • Cahill, Lindsay S

publication date

  • December 20, 2022