Alternative techniques in fish toxicity testing

Anders Goks°yr

Department of Molecular Biology, University of Bergen

Biosense Laboratories AS, Bergen, Norway


Although lethal toxicity tests has been proclaimed politically unwanted for more than a decade, they are still in use, e.g. in chemical testing programmes for providing wildlife effects, and a large number of fish are used annually for this type of testing. Lethal tests provide limited information about the full range of toxic effects that a chemical compound may have, including reproductive effects and endocrine disruption, long-term effects, carcinogenicity and immunotoxic effects. To obtain this kind of information, sublethal studies where other biological endpoints (biomarkers) are investigated, are necessary. Toxicogenomics and toxicoproteomics are emerging as powerful strategies to identify novel biomarkers and mechanisms for sublethal effects. A key goal in the work to develop alternative techniques for lethal toxicity testing is the development of non-disruptive/non-invasive biomarker tests. In the EU FP5 project EASYRING (Environmental Agent Susceptibility Assessment Utilising Exisiting and Novel Biomarkers as Rapid Non-Invasive Testing Methods), we have been working to identify novel biomarkers using proteomics techniques, and to develop non-invasive methods for endocrine disruptor testing based on fish mucus. A simple dipstick (LFIA) method for detecting Vitellogenin in carp has been developed.

In many cases, in vitro studies can be used as a replacement for in vivo studies for assessing sublethal effects and measuring biomarkers responses. However, this technique should be used with care, as several toxic responses require a complex interplay of multiple cell and organ types, and especially long-term and multi-generation effects will not be adequately revealed.


Work supported by grants from EU FP5 (EASYRING), the Norwegian Research Council, and Total.