Impact of weathered multi-walled carbon nanotubes on the epithelial cells of the intestinal tract in the freshwater grazers Lymnaea stagnalis and Rhithrogena semicolorata

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Freshwater grazers are suitable organisms to investigate the fate of environmental pollutants, such as weathered multi-walled carbon nanotubes (wMWCNTs). One key process is the uptake of ingested materials into digestive or absorptive cells. To address this, we investigated the localization of wMWCNTs in the intestinal tracts of the mud snail Lymnaea stagnalis (L. stagnalis) and the mayfly Rhithrogena semicolorata (R. semicolorata). In L. stagnalis, bundles of wMWCNTs could be detected in the midgut lumen, whereas only single wMWCNTs could be detected in the lumina of the digestive gland. Intracellular uptake of wMWCNTs was detected by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) but was restricted to the cells of the digestive gland. In larvae of R. semicolorata, irritations of the microvilli and damages in the apical parts of the epithelial gut cells were detected after feeding with 1 to 10 mg/L wMWCNTs. In both models, we detected fibrillar structures in close association with the epithelial cells that formed peritrophic membranes (PMs). The PM may cause a reduced transmission of wMWCNT bundles into the epithelium by forming a filter barrier and potentially protecting the cells from the wMWCNTs. As a result, the uptake of wMWCNTs into cells is rare in mud snails and may not occur at all in mayfly larvae. In addition, we monitor physiological markers such as levels of glycogen or triglycerides and the RNA/DNA ratio. This ratio was significantly affected in L. stagnalis after 24 days with 10 mg/L wMWCNTs, but not in R. semicolorata after 28 days and 10 mg/L wMWCNTs. However, significant effects on the energy status of R. semicolorata were analysed after 28 days of exposure to 1 mg/L wMWCNTs. Furthermore, we observed a significant reduction of phagosomes per enterocyte cell in mayfly larvae at a concentration of 10 mg/L wMWCNTs (p < 0.01).


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-419
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85135278310
PubMed 35900624
Mendeley b750f439-6551-3a68-8266-de30aaa3b082
ORCID /0000-0001-5624-1717/work/142239049
ORCID /0000-0002-9301-1803/work/161409814


DFG Classification of Subject Areas according to Review Boards

Subject groups, research areas, subject areas according to Destatis

Sustainable Development Goals


  • Animals, Ephemeroptera, Epithelial Cells, Fresh Water, Larva, Lymnaea/physiology, Nanotubes, Carbon, Epithelial cells, Histology, Digestive gland, Midgut lumen, Physiological state, wMWCNTs