Nominally identical microplastic models differ greatly in their particle-cell interactions

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung


  • Simon Wieland - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)
  • Anja F.R.M. Ramsperger - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)
  • Wolfgang Gross - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)
  • Moritz Lehmann - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)
  • Thomas Witzmann - , Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Autor:in)
  • Anja Caspari - , Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Autor:in)
  • Martin Obst - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)
  • Stephan Gekle - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)
  • Günter K. Auernhammer - , Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Autor:in)
  • Andreas Fery - , Professur für Physikalische Chemie polymerer Materialien (gB/IPF) (PC5), Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Autor:in)
  • Christian Laforsch - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)
  • Holger Kress - , Universität Bayreuth (Autor:in)


Due to the abundance of microplastics in the environment, research about its possible adverse effects is increasing exponentially. Most studies investigating the effect of microplastics on cells still rely on commercially available polystyrene microspheres. However, the choice of these model microplastic particles can affect the outcome of the studies, as even nominally identical model microplastics may interact differently with cells due to different surface properties such as the surface charge. Here, we show that nominally identical polystyrene microspheres from eight different manufacturers significantly differ in their ζ-potential, which is the electrical potential of a particle in a medium at its slipping plane. The ζ-potential of the polystyrene particles is additionally altered after environmental exposure. We developed a microfluidic microscopy platform to demonstrate that the ζ-potential determines particle-cell adhesion strength. Furthermore, we find that due to this effect, the ζ-potential also strongly determines the internalization of the microplastic particles into cells. Therefore, the ζ-potential can act as a proxy of microplastic-cell interactions and may govern adverse effects reported in various organisms exposed to microplastics.


Seiten (von - bis)1-17
FachzeitschriftNature communications
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 31 Jan. 2024

Externe IDs

PubMed 38297000



  • Microplastics/toxicity, Plastics, Polystyrenes/toxicity, Microspheres, Cell Communication, Water Pollutants, Chemical/analysis, Environmental Monitoring