Unabated use of nanoplastics (<1 μm) in the consumer products and their consequent release to the marine environment poses a substantial threat to the marine ecosystem. The toxic impact of the nanoplastics on marine microalgae is yet to be explored in detail, and the role of reactive oxygen species generation remains largely unclear. The algal exudates constitute a significant part of the natural organics present in the marine system that may readily adsorb over the nanoplastics to form eco-corona. In the current work a marine alga, Chlorella sp., was considered a bioindicator organism and the effects of eco-corona formation in lessening the toxic impact of the nanoplastics was analyzed. Three differently functionalized polystyrene nanoplastics (PS NPs): Aminated (NH2-PS NPs), Carboxylated (COOH-PS NPs) and Plain nanoplastics were aged (12, 24, and 48 h) in the EPS containing medium to facilitate eco-corona formation. Decline in cell viability, membrane integrity, and photosynthetic yield were considered to be principle toxicity indicators. The role of oxidative stress as key mode of action (MOA) was studied considering generation of overall reactive oxygen species, and specific radicals (hydroxyl and superoxide) as relevant markers. The changes in antioxidant enzyme activities (superoxide dismutase, and catalase) were also measured. The results clearly indicate a significant decline in the oxidative stress and corresponding lessening of the toxic effects due to eco-corona formation on the PS NPs. The response varied with surface charge on the NPs and ageing duration. Considering the increasing importance of the nanoplastics as one of the major emerging pollutants in marine ecosystem, this study strongly suggests that the EPS mediated eco-corona formation may substantially lessen their toxic burden.
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