Time-dependent immune response in Porcellio scaber following exposure to microplastics and natural particles
Microplastics are very common contaminants in the environment. Despite increasing efforts to assess the effects of microplastics on soil organisms, there remains a lack of knowledge on how organisms respond to diverse types of microplastics after different exposure durations. In the present study, we investigated the immune response of the terrestrial crustacean Porcellio scaber exposed to the two most common microplastic particles in the environment: polyester fibres and tyre particles. We also tested two natural particles: wood dust and silica powder, with all treatments performed at 1.5% w/w. The response of P. scaber was evaluated at the level of the immune system, and also the biochemical, organism and population level, after different exposure durations (1, 2, 4, 7, 14, 21 days). These data reveal dynamic changes in the levels of some immune parameters shortly after exposure, with a gradual return to control values. The total number of haemocytes was significantly decreased after 4 days of exposure to tyre particles, while the proportion of different haemocyte types in the haemolymph was altered shortly after exposure to both polyester fibres and tyre particles. Moreover, 7 days of exposure to tyre particles resulted in increased superoxide dismutase activity in the haemolymph, while metabolic activity in whole woodlice (measured as electron transport system activity) was increased after exposure for 7, 14 and 21 days. In contrast, the natural particles did not elicit any significant changes in the measured parameters. Survival and feeding of P. scaber were not altered by exposure to the microplastics and natural particles in soil. Overall, this study defines a time-dependent transient immune response of P. scaber, which indicates that immune parameters represent sensitive biomarkers of exposure to microplastics. We discuss the importance of using natural particles in studies of microplastics exposure and their effects.