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An efficient and gentle enzymatic digestion protocol for the extraction of microplastics from bivalve tissue

Journal article
Authors L. W. von Friesen
M. E. Granberg
Martin Hassellöv
G. W. Gabrielsen
K. Magnusson
Published in Marine Pollution Bulletin
Volume 142
Pages 129-134
ISSN 0025-326X
Publication year 2019
Published at The Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences
Pages 129-134
Language en
Keywords Microplastics, Enzymatic digestion protocol, KOH, Pancreatic enzymes, Tissue digestion, Emerging pollutants, marine-environment, optimization, sediments, waste, water, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Marine & Freshwater Biology
Subject categories Marine ecology


Standardized methods for the digestion of biota for microplastic analysis are currently lacking. Chemical methods can be effective, but can also cause damage to some polymers. Enzymatic methods are known to be gentler, but often laborious, expensive and time consuming. A novel tissue digestion method with pancreatic enzymes and a pH buffer (Tris) is here presented in a comparison to a commonly applied digestion protocol with potassium hydroxide. The novel protocol demonstrates a highly efficient removal of bivalve tissue (97.7 +/- 0.2% dry weight loss) already over-night. Furthermore, it induces no impairment in terms of ability to correctly identify four pre-weathered plastic polymers and six textile fiber polymers by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy after exposure. The high-throughput protocol requires minimal handling, is of low cost and does not pose risk to the performer or the environment. It is therefore suggested as a candidate for a standardized digestion protocol, enabling successful analysis of microplastics ingested by bivalves.

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