Reviewing nanoplastic toxicology: It's an interface problem

Shinji Kihara, Ingo Köper, Jitendra P. Mata, Duncan J. McGillivray

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Multiple international agencies have recently raised environmental and health concerns regarding plastics in nanoforms (nanoplastics), but there is insufficient knowledge of their properties to allow for an accurate risk assessment to be conducted and any risks managed. For this reason, research into the toxicity of nanoplastics has focused strongly on documenting their impacts on biological organisms. One scope of this review is to summarise the recent findings on the adverse effects on biological organisms and strategies which can be adopted to advance our understanding of nanoplastic properties and their toxicity. Specifically, a mechanistic approach has already been employed in nanotoxicology, which focuses on the cause-and-effect relationships to establish a tool that predicts the biological impacts based on nanoparticle characteristics. Identifying the chemical and biological bases behind the observed biological effects (such as in vitro cellular response) is a major challenge, due to the intricate nature of nanoparticle-biological molecule complexes and an unawareness of their interaction with other biological targets, particularly at interfacial level. An exemplary case includes protein corona formation and ecological molecule corona (eco-corona) for nanoplastics. Therefore, the second scope of this review is to discuss recent findings and importance of (for both non-plastic and plastic nanoparticles) coronae formation and structure. Finally, we discuss the opportunities provided by model system approaches (model protein corona and lipid bilayer) to deepen the understanding of the above-mentioned perspectives, and corroborate the findings from in vitro experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102337
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • cellular interactions
  • eco-corona
  • Nanoplastic
  • nanotoxicology
  • protein corona


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