Nanoplastics can change the secondary structure of proteins

O Holloczki and S Gehrke, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 9, 16013 (2019).

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-52495-w

Submillimetre-sized plastic particles (microplastics and nanoplastics) of waste origin in the environment have been repeatedly suggested in recent years to have severe impact on living organisms. While the uptake of these materials has been unequivocally evidenced for animals, so far no adverse effects have been observed in the corresponding animal experiments. In this study, we show that nanoplastics are prone to interact with proteins, and this interaction fundamentally changes the functionally crucial secondary structure of these biomolecules, and thereby denaturates them. These results show, for the first time, that the interplay between plastic waste and biological matter can induce significant cellular and thereby ecological damages. Observing these remarkable microscopic level changes highlights the urgent need to extend investigating the effects of these materials through further modelling and molecular biological methods.

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