Towards an alternative for the acute fish LC50 test in chemical assessment: The fish embryo toxicity test goes multi-species - an update

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Thomas Braunbeck , Melanie Böttcher, Henner Hollert, Thomas Kosmehl, Eva Lammer, Erik Leist, Mark Rudolf, Nadja Seitz
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After its standardisation at the national level in Germany (DIN 38415-6, 2001; DIN, 2001), the 48 h sewage testing assay with zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos has been submitted for standardisation to ISO. As an alternative to the conventional acute (96 h) fish test, a modified fish embryo test will be submitted to the OECD for chemical testing in late 2005. For this, a protocol originally designed for zebrafish was adapted to fit also the requirements of other OECD species, namely medaka (Oryzias latipes) and fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). Results document that the transfer of the protocol is possible with only minor modifications. Data obtained from embryo tests with the three species are comparable. Statistical analysis of existing zebrafish embryo toxicity data resulted in the conclusions (1) that there is a reliable correlation between the fish embryo test and the acute fish test, (2) that the confidence belt of the regression line was relatively small, but that the prediction range was relatively wide. The regression thus seems appropriate to describe the relationship between acute fish and embryo LC50 with good confidence, but is less appropriate as a prediction model. Investigations into oxygen requirements of zebrafish embryos reveal that they adapt to a broad range of oxygen levels and survive at concentrations of 2 mg/l without malformations. Zebrafish embryos can thus be exposed in very small toxicant volumes (100 μl), which is of particular interest for the testing of metabolites. Dechorionation studies with 48 h old zebrafish embryos indicate that the barrier function of the chorion increases with the lipophilicity of the test compound. Finally, examples are given as to how additional endpoints can be incorporated into the fish embryo test protocol to extend its scope, e.g. to sediment toxicity assessment or genotoxicity and mutagenicity testing.

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Braunbeck, T. (2005) “Towards an alternative for the acute fish LC50 test in chemical assessment: The fish embryo toxicity test goes multi-species - an update”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 22(2), pp. 87–102. Available at: (Accessed: 18 June 2024).

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