Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 30, pp 30067–30083 | Cite as

Effects of microplastics on trophic parameters, abundance and metabolic activities of seawater and fish gut bacteria in mesocosm conditions

  • Gabriella CarusoEmail author
  • Cristina Pedà
  • Simone Cappello
  • Marcella Leonardi
  • Rosabruna La Ferla
  • Angelina Lo Giudice
  • Giulia Maricchiolo
  • Carmen Rizzo
  • Giovanna Maimone
  • Alessandro Ciro Rappazzo
  • Lucrezia Genovese
  • Teresa Romeo
Research Article


Plastic pollution is an emerging threat with severe implications on animals’ and environmental health. Nevertheless, interactions of plastic particles with both microbial structure and metabolism are a new research challenge that needs to be elucidated yet. To improve knowledge on the effects played by microplastics on free-living and fish gut-associated microbial community in aquatic environments, a 90-day study was performed in three replicated mesocosms (control-CTRL, native polyvinyl chloride-MPV and weathered polyvinyl chloride-MPI), where sea bass specimens were hosted. In CTRL mesocosm, fish was fed with no-plastic-added food, whilst in MPV and MPI food was supplemented with native or exposed to polluted waters polyvinylchloride pellets, respectively. Particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen, total and culturable bacteria, extracellular enzymatic activities, and microbial community substrate utilization profiles were analyzed. POC values were lower in MPI than MPV and CRTL mesocosms. Microplastics did not affect severely bacterial metabolism, although enzymatic activities decreased and microbes utilized a lower number of carbon substrates in MPI than MPV and CTRL. No shifts in the bacterial community composition of fish gut microflora were observed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fingerprinting analysis.


Microplastics Microbial community Metabolism Fish gut microbiota Mesocosm 



Control water tank


water tank added with native polyvinyl chloride


water tank added with weathered polyvinyl chloride



The authors are grateful to technician personnel of the CNR-IAMC Aquaculture Experimental Facilities of Messina. In particular, they thank Sig. Antonino Parisi, who provided his support in technical execution of experiment.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_2926_MOESM1_ESM.doc (86 kb)
Fig. S1 Mean values ± standard deviation of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD5) measured over time in the control (CTRL, white circles), virgin microplastics (MPV, grey circles) and weathered microplastics (MPI, black circles) treated tanks. Asterisks indicate significant differences related to the variable “treatment”, whilst different letters indicate significant differences related to the variable “time. n = 3 replicated measurements. (DOC 86 kb)
11356_2018_2926_MOESM2_ESM.docx (2 mb)
Fig. S2 Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) banding profiles obtained by fingerprinting analysis of the 16S rDNA of gut bacterial communities of fish kept in the control (CTRL, white circles), virgin microplastics (MPV, grey circles) and weathered microplastics (MPI, black circles) treated tanks. The arrows show the excised bands. L, ladder. (DOCX 2060 kb)
11356_2018_2926_MOESM3_ESM.doc (82 kb)
Fig. S3 (A, B) Outputs of Cluster analysis (A) and non-metric MultiDimensional Scaling (n-MDS) analysis (B) performed on gut microbiota of fish kept in the control (CTRL), virgin microplastics (MPV) and weathered microplastics (MPI) treated tanks after 30, 60 and 90 days. (DOC 82 kb)
11356_2018_2926_MOESM4_ESM.doc (56 kb)
Table S1 Mean values ± standard deviation of the main physical-chemical values of seawater measured per each treatment (CTRL: Control; MPV: native, virgin microplastics; MPI: weathered microplastics) and per each sampling time (where T0 and T90 are the start and the end of the experiment). n = 3 replicated measurements. (DOC 55 kb)
11356_2018_2926_MOESM5_ESM.docx (47 kb)
Table S2 Raw substrate utilization obtained on Biolog Eco-plates, reported as Averaged Substrate Colour Development (ASCD) per each treatment (Control, CTRL; Virgin Microplastics, MPV and Weathered Microplastics, MPI) over time (T0, T30, T60 and T90 where T0 is the start and T90 is the end of the experiment) and number of substrates (n) with a positive response having OD > 0.10. D = days of experiment. (DOCX 46 kb)
11356_2018_2926_MOESM6_ESM.docx (39 kb)
Table S3 Diversity indices obtained by Averaged Substrate Colour Development (ASCD) ± standard deviation on Biolog Eco-plates, per each time (T0, T30, T60 and T90 where T0 is the start and T90 is the end of the experiment) and treatment (Control, CTRL; Virgin Microplastics, MPV and Weathered Microplastics, MPI). Mean value of positive wells over each experiment time (n), substrate richness (S), Shannon functional diversity index (H′), Pielou’s Evenness index (E) and average proportion of ASCD per substrate (ASCD/S). (DOCX 38 kb)
11356_2018_2926_MOESM7_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Table S4 16S rDNA gene sequence affiliation of the excised DGGE bands to their closest phylogenetic neighbors (CTRL: Control; MPV: native, virgin microplastics; MPI: weathered microplastics). (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriella Caruso
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cristina Pedà
    • 2
  • Simone Cappello
    • 1
  • Marcella Leonardi
    • 1
  • Rosabruna La Ferla
    • 1
  • Angelina Lo Giudice
    • 1
    • 3
  • Giulia Maricchiolo
    • 1
  • Carmen Rizzo
    • 3
  • Giovanna Maimone
    • 1
  • Alessandro Ciro Rappazzo
    • 1
  • Lucrezia Genovese
    • 1
  • Teresa Romeo
    • 2
  1. 1.National Research Council, Institute for Coastal Marine Environment (CNR-IAMC)MessinaItaly
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA)MilazzoItaly
  3. 3.Department of Chemical, Biological, Pharmaceutical and Environmental SciencesUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly

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