Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Elsevier Fish & Shellfish Immunology



First Page


Last Page



Environmental microplastic pollution (including polystyrene, PS) may have detrimental effects on the health of aquatic organisms. Accumulation of PS microplastics has been reported to affect innate immune cells and inflammatory responses in fish. To date, knowledge on effects of microplastics on the antibody response is still very limited. Here, we investigated effects of small (0.8–20 μm) PS microplastics on the abundance of B lineage cells in primary cultures of developing immune cells from the anterior kidney of rainbow trout. Both purchased PS microbeads and PS microparticles generated from consumer products were used as microplastic sources. We first show that rainbow trout phagocytic B cells efficiently took up small (0.83–3.1 μm) PS microbeads within hours of exposure. In addition, our data revealed that PS microplastic exposure most significantly decreased the abundance of a population of non-phagocytic developing B cells, using both flow cytometry and RT-qPCR. PS microplastics-induced loss of developing B cells further correlated with reduced gene expression of RAG1 and the membrane form of immunoglobulin heavy chains mu and tau. Based on the induced loss of developing B cells observed in our in vitro studies, we speculate that in vivo, chronic PS microplastic-exposure may lead to suboptimal IgM/IgT levels in response to pathogens in teleost species. Considering the highly conserved nature of vertebrate B lymphopoiesis it is likely that PS microplastics will similarly reduce antibody responses in higher vertebrate species, including humans. Further, RAG1 provides an effective biomarker to determine effects of PS microplastics on B cell development in teleost species.


doi: 10.1016/j.fsi.2021.04.014

Publication Statement

Accepted manuscript version.