Animal Reproduction (AR)
Animal Reproduction (AR)
Thematic Section: 39th Annual Meeting of the Association of Embryo Technology in Europe (AETE)

The impact of microplastics on female reproduction and early life

Jiayi Yang; Jorke Kamstra; Juliette Legler; Hilde Aardema

Downloads: 3
Views: 162


Plastic pollution in our environment is one of the most important global health concerns right now. Micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) are taken up by both humans and animals, mainly via food and water, and can pass important epithelial barriers. Indications of plastics in the blood circulation have recently been shown in both humans and farm animals, but standardized methods to quantify the exact levels of MNPs to which we are exposed are currently lacking. Potential hazards of MNPs are being investigated very recently, including the impact that MNPs may have on reproduction. However, studies on mammalian reproduction are scarce, but a wealth of data from aquatic species indicates reproductive effects of MNPs. The first studies in rodent models demonstrate that MNPs reach the gonads after oral exposure and may impact offspring after maternal exposure during the gestational period. These effects may arise from the particles themselves or the presence of plastic contaminants that leach from plastics. Plastic contamination has been detected in human placentas, fetal fluid and the meconium of newborns, indicating the presence of plastics from the very first start of life. Currently there is a lack of studies that investigate the impact of MNP exposure during the periconception and embryonic period, whereas this is an extremely sensitive period that needs considerable attention with the growing amount of plastics in our environment.


microplastics, reproduction, genital tract, oocyte, embryo


Abbasi S, Turner A. Human exposure to microplastics: a study in Iran. J Hazard Mater. 2021;403:123799. PMid:33264903.

Aghaei Z, Sled JG, Kingdom JC, Baschat AA, Helm PA, Jobst KJ, Cahill LS. Maternal exposure to polystyrene micro- and nanoplastics causes fetal growth restriction in mice. Environ Sci Technol Lett. 2022;9(5):426-30.

Aghaei Z, Mercer GV, Schneider CM, Sled JG, Macgowan CK, Baschat AA, Kingdom JC, Helm PA, Simpson AJ, Simpson MJ, Jobst KJ, Cahill LS. Maternal exposure to polystyrene microplastics alters placental metabolism in mice. Metabolomics. 2023;19(1):1. PMid:36538272.

Albertini DF, Barrett SL. Oocyte-somatic cell communication. Reproduction. 2003;61:49-54. PMid:14635926.

Alimi OS, Farner Budarz J, Hernandez LM, Tufenkji N. Microplastics and nanoplastics in aquatic environments: aggregation, deposition, and enhanced contaminant transport. Environ Sci Technol. 2018;52(4):1704-24. PMid:29265806.

An R, Wang X, Yang L, Zhang J, Wang N, Xu F, Hou Y, Zhang H, Zhang L. Polystyrene microplastics cause granulosa cells apoptosis and fibrosis in ovary through oxidative stress in rats. Toxicology. 2021;449:152665. PMid:33359712.

Azeem I, Adeel M, Ahmad MA, Shakoor N, Jiangcuo GD, Azeem K, Ishfaq M, Shakoor A, Ayaz M, Xu M, Rui Y. Uptake and accumulation of nano/microplastics in plants: a critical review. Nanomaterials (Basel). 2021;11(11):2935. PMid:34835700.

Babenko O, Kovalchuk I, Metz GAS. Stress-induced perinatal and transgenerational epigenetic programming of brain development and mental health. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015;48:70-91. PMid:25464029.

Barboza LGA, Dick Vethaak A, Lavorante BRBO, Lundebye A, Guilhermino L. Marine microplastic debris: an emerging issue for food security, food safety and human health. Mar Pollut Bull. 2018;133:336-48. PMid:30041323.

Barker DJP. Fetal origins of coronary heart disease. BMJ. 1995;311(6998):171-4. PMid:7613432.

Beriot N, Peek J, Zornoza R, Geissen V, Huerta Lwanga E. Low density-microplastics detected in sheep faeces and soil: a case study from the intensive vegetable farming in Southeast Spain. Sci Total Environ. 2021;755(Pt 1):142653. PMid:33069476.

Bosman SJ, Nieto SP, Patton WC, Jacobson JD, Corselli JU, Chan PJ. Development of mammalian embryos exposed to mixed-size nanoparticles. Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2005;32(4):222-4. PMid:16440818.

Browne MA, Dissanayake A, Galloway TS, Lowe DM, Thompson RC. Ingested microscopic plastic translocates to the circulatory system of the mussel, Mytilus edulis (L.). Environ Sci Technol. 2008;42(13):5026-31. PMid:18678044.

Buratini J, Dellaqua TT, Dal Canto M, La Marca A, Carone D, Mignini Renzini M, Webb R. The putative roles of FSH and AMH in the regulation of oocyte developmental competence: from fertility prognosis to mechanisms underlying age-related subfertility. Hum Reprod Update. 2022;28(2):232-54. PMid:34969065.

Chen G, Xiong S, Jing Q, van Gestel CAM, van Straalen NM, Roelofs D, Sun L, Qiu H. Maternal exposure to polystyrene nanoparticles retarded fetal growth and triggered metabolic disorders of placenta and fetus in mice. Sci Total Environ. 2023;854:158666. PMid:36108837.

Clarke HJ. Transzonal projections: essential structures mediating intercellular communication in the mammalian ovarian follicle. Mol Reprod Dev. 2022;89(11):509-25. PMid:36112806.

De-la-Torre GE. Microplastics: an emerging threat to food security and human health. J Food Sci Technol. 2020;57(5):1601-8. PMid:32327770.

Deng Y, Yan Z, Shen R, Wang M, Huang Y, Ren H, Zhang Y, Lemos B. Microplastics release phthalate esters and cause aggravated adverse effects in the mouse gut. Environ Int. 2020;143:105916. PMid:32615348.

Dong X, Liu X, Hou Q, Wang Z. From natural environment to animal tissues: a review of microplastics(nanoplastics) translocation and hazards studies. Sci Total Environ. 2023;855:158686. PMid:36099943.

Duan Z, Duan X, Zhao S, Wang X, Wang J, Liu Y, Peng Y, Gong Z, Wang L. Barrier function of zebrafish embryonic chorions against microplastics and nanoplastics and its impact on embryo development. J Hazard Mater. 2020;395:122621. PMid:32289630.

Dusza HM, Janssen E, Kanda R, Legler J. Method development for effect-directed analysis of endocrine disrupting compounds in human amniotic fluid. Environ Sci Technol. 2019;53(24):14649-59. PMid:31584268.

Dusza HM, Manz KE, Pennell KD, Kanda R, Legler J. Identification of known and novel nonpolar endocrine disruptors in human amniotic fluid. Environ Int. 2022;158:106904. PMid:34607043.

Fackelmann G, Sommer S. Microplastics and the gut microbiome: how chronically exposed species may suffer from gut dysbiosis. Mar Pollut Bull. 2019;143:193-203. PMid:31789155.

Fakour H, Lo S, Yoashi NT, Massao AM, Lema NN, Mkhontfo FB, Jomalema PC, Jumanne NS, Mbuya BH, Mtweve JT, Imani M. Quantification and analysis of microplastics in farmland soils: characterization, sources, and pathways. Agriculture. 2021;11(4):330.

Fan W, Salmond JA, Dirks KN, Cabedo Sanz P, Miskelly GM, Rindelaub JD. Evidence and mass quantification of atmospheric microplastics in a Coastal New Zealand City. Environ Sci Technol. 2022;56(24):17556-68. PMid:36459143.

Fitz-James MH, Cavalli G. Molecular mechanisms of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. Nat Rev Genet. 2022;23(6):325-41. PMid:34983971.

Galloway TS. Micro- and nano-plastics and human health. In: Bergmann M, Gutow L, Klages M, editors. Marine anthropogenic litter. London: Springer; 2015. p. 343-66.

Gilchrist RB, Lane M, Thompson JG. Oocyte-secreted factors: regulators of cumulus cell function and oocyte quality. Hum Reprod Update. 2008;14(2):159-77. PMid:18175787.

Han Y, Song Y, Kim GW, Ha C, Lee J, Kim M, Son H, Lee G, Gautam R, Heo Y. No prominent toxicity of polyethylene microplastics observed in neonatal mice following intratracheal instillation to dams during gestational and neonatal period. Toxicol Res. 2021;37(4):443-50. PMid:34631501.

He J, Yang X, Liu H. Enhanced toxicity of triphenyl phosphate to zebrafish in the presence of micro- and nano-plastics. Sci Total Environ. 2021;756:143986. PMid:33307501.

Hou B, Wang F, Liu T, Wang Z. Reproductive toxicity of polystyrene microplastics: in vivo experimental study on testicular toxicity in mice. J Hazard Mater. 2021a;405:124028. PMid:33087287.

Hou J, Lei Z, Cui L, Hou Y, Yang L, An R, Wang Q, Li S, Zhang H, Zhang L. Polystyrene microplastics lead to pyroptosis and apoptosis of ovarian granulosa cells via NLRP3/Caspase-1 signaling pathway in rats. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2021b;212:112012. PMid:33550074.

Hu J, Qin X, Zhang J, Zhu Y, Zeng W, Lin Y, Liu X. Polystyrene microplastics disturb maternal-fetal immune balance and cause reproductive toxicity in pregnant mice. Reprod Toxicol. 2021;106:42-50. PMid:34626775.

Huang S, Huang X, Bi R, Guo Q, Yu X, Zeng Q, Huang Z, Liu T, Wu H, Chen Y, Xu J, Wu Y, Guo P. Detection and analysis of microplastics in human sputum. Environ Sci Technol. 2022;56(4):2476-86. PMid:35073488.

Huang Y, Liu Q, Jia W, Yan C, Wang J. Agricultural plastic mulching as a source of microplastics in the terrestrial environment. Environ Pollut. 2020;260:114096. PMid:32041035.

Huerta Lwanga E, Mendoza Vega J, Ku Quej V, Chi JLA, Sanchez Del Cid L, Chi C, Escalona Segura G, Gertsen H, Salanki T, van der Ploeg M, Koelmans AA, Geissen V. Field evidence for transfer of plastic debris along a terrestrial food chain. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):14071-2. PMid:29074893.

Hurley RR, Lusher AL, Olsen M, Nizzetto L. Validation of a method for extracting microplastics from complex, organic-rich. Environ Sci Technol. 2018;52(13):7409-17. PMid:29886731.

Issac MN, Kandasubramanian B. Effect of microplastics in water and aquatic systems. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021;28(16):19544-62. PMid:33655475.

Jeong B, Baek JY, Koo J, Park S, Ryu Y, Kim K, Zhang S, Chung C, Dogan R, Choi H, Um D, Kim T, Lee WS, Jeong J, Shin W, Lee J, Kim N, Lee DY. Maternal exposure to polystyrene nanoplastics causes brain abnormalities in progeny. J Hazard Mater. 2022;426:127815. PMid:34823950.

Jin H, Ma T, Sha X, Liu Z, Zhou Y, Meng X, Chen Y, Han X, Ding J. Polystyrene microplastics induced male reproductive toxicity in mice. J Hazard Mater. 2021;401:123430. PMid:32659591.

Junaid M, Liu S, Chen G, Liao H, Wang J. Transgenerational impacts of micro(nano)plastics in the aquatic and terrestrial environment. J Hazard Mater. 2023;443(Pt B):130274. PMid:36327853.

Koelmans AA, Mohamed Nor NH, Hermsen E, Kooi M, Mintenig SM, De France J. Microplastics in freshwaters and drinking water: critical review and assessment of data quality. Water Res. 2019;155:410-22. PMid:30861380.

Lai H, Liu X, Qu M. Nanoplastics and human health: hazard identification and biointerface. Nanomaterials (Basel). 2022;12(8):1298. PMid:35458006.

Lee KW, Shim WJ, Kwon OY, Kang JH. Size-dependent effects of micro polystyrene particles in the marine copepod tigriopus japonicus. Environ Sci Technol. 2013;47(19):11278-83. PMid:23988225.

Leslie HA, van Velzen MJM, Brandsma SH, Vethaak AD, Garcia-Vallejo JJ, Lamoree MH. Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood. Environ Int. 2022;163:107199. PMid:35367073.

Lin X, Wang Y, Yang X, Watson P, Yang F, Liu H. Endocrine disrupting effect and reproductive toxicity of the separate exposure and co-exposure of nano-polystyrene and diethylstilbestrol to zebrafish. Sci Total Environ. 2023;865:161100. PMid:36566849.

Liu Z, Zhuan Q, Zhang L, Meng L, Fu X, Hou Y. Polystyrene microplastics induced female reproductive toxicity in mice. J Hazard Mater. 2022;424(Pt C):127629. PMid:34740508.

Luo T, Wang C, Pan Z, Jin C, Fu Z, Jin Y. Maternal polystyrene microplastic exposure during gestation and lactation altered metabolic homeostasis in the dams and their F1 and F2 offspring. Environ Sci Technol. 2019a;53(18):10978-92. PMid:31448906.

Luo T, Zhang Y, Wang C, Wang X, Zhou J, Shen M, Zhao Y, Fu Z, Jin Y. Maternal exposure to different sizes of polystyrene microplastics during gestation causes metabolic disorders in their offspring. Environ Pollut. 2019b;255(Pt 1):113122. PMid:31520900.

Macaulay AD, Gilbert I, Caballero J, Barreto R, Fournier E, Tossou P, Sirard M, Clarke HJ, Khandjian ÉW, Richard FJ, Hyttel P, Robert C. The gametic synapse: RNA transfer to the bovine oocyte. Biol Reprod. 2014;91(4):90. PMid:25143353.

Malafaia G, Nóbrega RH, Luz TMD, Araújo APDC. Shedding light on the impacts of gestational exposure to polystyrene nanoplastics on the reproductive performance of Poecilia reticulata female and on the biochemical response of embryos. J Hazard Mater. 2022;427:127873. PMid:34863562.

Ng E, Huerta Lwanga E, Eldridge SM, Johnston P, Hu H, Geissen V, Chen D. An overview of microplastic and nanoplastic pollution in agroecosystems. Sci Total Environ. 2018;627:1377-88. PMid:30857101.

Nie JH, Shen Y, Roshdy M, Cheng X, Wang G, Yang X. Polystyrene nanoplastics exposure caused defective neural tube morphogenesis through caveolae-mediated endocytosis and faulty apoptosis. Nanotoxicology. 2021;15(7):885-904. PMid:34087085.

Okamura T, Hamaguchi M, Hasegawa Y, Hashimoto Y, Majima S, Senmaru T, Ushigome E, Nakanishi N, Asano M, Yamazaki M, Sasano R, Nakanishi Y, Seno H, Takano H, Fukui M. Oral exposure to polystyrene microplastics of mice on a normal or high-fat diet and intestinal and metabolic outcomes. Environ Health Perspect. 2023;131(2):27006. PMid:36821708.

Park E, Han J, Park E, Seong E, Lee G, Kim D, Son H, Han H, Lee B. Repeated-oral dose toxicity of polyethylene microplastics and the possible implications on reproduction and development of the next generation. Toxicol Lett. 2020;324:75-85. PMid:31954868.

Park S, Jeon H, Choi DY, Oh JS. Polystyrene nanoparticles incorporate into the endoplasmic reticulum and disturb translation during meiotic maturation in mouse oocytes. Toxicol In Vitro. 2022;82:105380. PMid:35561955.

Pironti C, Notarstefano V, Ricciardi M, Motta O, Giorgini E, Montano L. First evidence of microplastics in human urine, a preliminary study of intake in the human body. Toxics. 2023;11(1):40. PMid:36668766.

Pironti C, Ricciardi M, Motta O, Miele Y, Proto A, Montano L. Microplastics in the environment: intake through the food web, human exposure and toxicological effects. Toxics. 2021;9(9):224. PMid:34564375.

Pitt JA, Trevisan R, Massarsky A, Kozal JS, Levin ED, Di Giulio RT. Maternal transfer of nanoplastics to offspring in zebrafish (Danio rerio): a case study with nanopolystyrene. Sci Total Environ. 2018;643:324-34. PMid:29940444.

Ragusa A, Matta M, Cristiano L, Matassa R, Battaglione E, Svelato A, De Luca C, D’Avino S, Gulotta A, Rongioletti MCA, Catalano P, Santacroce C, Notarstefano V, Carnevali O, Giorgini E, Vizza E, Familiari G, Nottola SA. Deeply in plasticenta: presence of microplastics in the intracellular compartment of human placentas. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022a;19(18):11593. PMid:36141864.

Ragusa A, Notarstefano V, Svelato A, Belloni A, Gioacchini G, Blondeel C, Zucchelli E, De Luca C, D’avino S, Gulotta A, Carnevali O, Giorgini E. Raman microspectroscopy detection and characterisation of microplastics in human breastmilk. Polymers (Basel). 2022b;14(13):2700. PMid:35808745.

Ragusa A, Svelato A, Santacroce C, Catalano P, Notarstefano V, Carnevali O, Papa F, Rongioletti MCA, Baiocco F, Draghi S, D’Amore E, Rinaldo D, Matta M, Giorgini E. Plasticenta: first evidence of microplastics in human placenta. Environ Int. 2021;146:106274. PMid:33395930.

Rebuzzini P, Fabozzi G, Cimadomo D, Ubaldi FM, Rienzi L, Zuccotti M, Garagna S. Multi- and transgenerational effects of environmental toxicants on mammalian reproduction. Cells. 2022;11(19):3163. PMid:36231124.

Ridder A, Giorgione V, Khalil A, Thilaganathan B. Preeclampsia: the relationship between uterine artery blood flow and trophoblast function. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(13):3263. PMid:31269775.

Rochman CM, Brookson C, Bikker J, Djuric N, Earn A, Bucci K, Athey S, Huntington A, McIlwraith H, Munno K, De Frond H, Kolomijeca A, Erdle L, Grbic J, Bayoumi M, Borrelle SB, Wu T, Santoro S, Werbowski LM, Zhu X, Giles RK, Hamilton BM, Thaysen C, Kaura A, Klasios N, Ead L, Kim J, Sherlock C, Ho A, Hung C. Rethinking microplastics as a diverse contaminant suite. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2019;38(4):703-11. PMid:30909321.

Sá LC, Oliveira M, Ribeiro F, Rocha TL, Futter MN. Studies of the effects of microplastics on aquatic organisms: what do we know and where should we focus our efforts in the future? Sci Total Environ. 2018;645:1029-39. PMid:30248828.

Santos AL, Rodrigues CC, Oliveira M, Rocha TL. Microbiome: a forgotten target of environmental micro(nano)plastics? Sci Total Environ. 2022;822:153628. PMid:35124041.

Sarasamma S, Audira G, Siregar P, Malhotra N, Lai Y, Liang S, Chen J, Chen KH, Hsiao C. Nanoplastics cause neurobehavioral impairments, reproductive and oxidative damages, and biomarker responses in zebrafish: throwing up alarms of wide spread health risk of exposure. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(4):1410. PMid:32093039.

Schwabl P, Koppel S, Konigshofer P, Bucsics T, Trauner M, Reiberger T, Liebmann B. Detection of various microplastics in human stool: a prospective case series. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171(7):453-7. PMid:31476765.

Sendra M, Pereiro P, Yeste MP, Mercado L, Figueras A, Novoa B. Size matters: Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model to study toxicity of nanoplastics from cells to the whole organism. Environ Pollut. 2021;268(Pt A):115769. PMid:33070068.

Silva Brito WA, Mutter F, Wende K, Cecchini AL, Schmidt A, Bekeschus S. Consequences of nano and microplastic exposure in rodent models: the known and unknown. Part Fibre Toxicol. 2022;19(1):28. PMid:35449034.

Stringfellow DA, Daniel Givens M, International Embryo Transfer Society. Manual of the International Embryo Transfer Society (IETS): a procedural guide and general information for the use of embryo transfer technology emphasizing sanitary procedures. 4th ed. Savory: International Embryo Transfer Society; 2009.

Tian L, Jinjin C, Ji R, Ma Y, Yu X. Microplastics in agricultural soils: sources, effects, and their fate. Curr Opin Environ Sci Health. 2022;25:100311.

United Nations Environment Programme - UNEP. Plastics in agriculture - an environmental challenge. Nairobi: UNEP; 2022. Foresight Brief, no. 029.

van den Berg AET, Plantinga M, Vethaak D, Adriaans KJ, Bol-Schoenmakers M, Legler J, Smit JJ, Pieters RHH. Environmentally weathered polystyrene particles induce phenotypical and functional maturation of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells. J Immunotoxicol. 2022;19(1):125-33. PMid:36422989.

van der Veen I, van Mourik LM, van Velzen MJM, Groenewoud QR, Leslie HA. Plastic particles in livestock feed, milk, meat and blood - a pilot study. Amsterdam: Department of Environment & Health, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; 2022.

van Mourik LM, Crum S, Martinez-Frances E, van Bavel B, Leslie HA, de Boer J, Cofino WP. Results of WEPAL-QUASIMEME/NORMANs first global interlaboratory study on microplastics reveal urgent need for harmonization. Sci Total Environ. 2021;772:145071. PMid:33770896.

Vanroose G, Nauwynck H, Van Soom A, Ysebaert M, Charlier G, Van Oostveldt P, De Kruif A. Structural aspects of the zona pellucida of in vitro-produced bovine embryos: a scanning electron and confocal laser scanning microscopic study. Biol Reprod. 2000;62(2):463-9. PMid:10642588.

Vethaak AD, Legler J. Microplastics and human health: knowledge gaps should be addressed to ascertain the health risks of microplastics. Science. 2021;371(6530):672-4. PMid:33574197.

Wang L, Wu W, Bolan NS, Tsang DCW, Li Y, Qin M, Hou D. Environmental fate, toxicity and risk management strategies of nanoplastics in the environment: current status and future perspectives. J Hazard Mater. 2021;401:123415. PMid:32763705.

Wei Z, Wang Y, Wang S, Xie J, Han Q, Chen M. Comparing the effects of polystyrene microplastics exposure on reproduction and fertility in male and female mice. Toxicology. 2022;465:153059. PMid:34864092.

Wiesinger H, Wang Z, Hellweg S. Deep dive into plastic monomers, additives, and processing aids. Environ Sci Technol. 2021;55(13):9339-51. PMid:34154322.

Wu RT, Cai YF, Chen YX, Yang YW, Xing SC, Liao XD. Occurrence of microplastic in livestock and poultry manure in South China. Environ Pollut. 2021;277:116790. PMid:33667747.

Yang J, Birza MJJ, Kamstra JH, Aardema H. First evidence of nanoplastic uptake by the maturing oocyte. Anim Reprod. 2022;19:e22203.

Yang L, Zhang Y, Kang S, Wang Z, Wu C. Microplastics in soil: a review on methods, occurrence, sources, and potential risk. Sci Total Environ. 2021;780:146546.

Yuan Y, Qin Y, Wang M, Xu W, Chen Y, Zheng L, Chen W, Luo T. Microplastics from agricultural plastic mulch films: a mini-review of their impacts on the animal reproductive system. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2022;244:114030. PMid:36058163.

Zhang J, Wang L, Trasande L, Kannan K. Occurrence of polyethylene terephthalate and polycarbonate microplastics in infant and adult feces. Environ Sci Technol Lett. 2021;8(11):989-94.

Zhao J, Stenzel MH. Entry of nanoparticles into cells: the importance of nanoparticle properties. Polym Chem. 2018;9(3):259-72.

Submitted date:

Accepted date:

64b96697a95395580879ffc3 animreprod Articles
Links & Downloads

Anim Reprod

Share this page
Page Sections