Short- and long-term polystyrene nano- and microplastic exposure promotes oxidative stress and divergently affects skin cell architecture and Wnt/beta-catenin signaling
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Nano- and microplastic particles (NMP) are strong environmental contaminants affecting marine ecosystems and human health. The negligible use of biodegradable plastics and the lack of knowledge about plastic uptake, accumulation, and functional consequences led us to investigate the short- and long-term effects in freshly isolated skin cells from mice. Using fluorescent NMP of several sizes (200 nm to 6 µm), efficient cellular uptake was observed, causing, however, only minor acute toxicity as metabolic activity and apoptosis data suggested, albeit changes in intracellular reactive species and thiol levels were observed. The internalized NMP induced an altered expression of various targets of the nuclear factor-2-related transcription factor 2 pathway and were accompanied by changed antioxidant and oxidative stress signaling responses, as suggested by altered heme oxygenase 1 and glutathione peroxide 2 levels. A highly increased beta-catenin expression under acute but not chronic NMP exposure was concomitant with a strong translocation from membrane to the nucleus and subsequent transcription activation of Wnt signaling target genes after both single-dose and chronic long-term NMP exposure. Moreover, fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transdifferentiation accompanied by an increase of α smooth muscle actin and collagen expression was observed. Together with several NMP-induced changes in junctional and adherence protein expression, our study for the first time elucidates the acute and chronic effects of NMP of different sizes in primary skin cells' signaling and functional biology, contributing to a better understanding of nano- and microplastic to health risks in higher vertebrates.