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Toxicol Pathol. 2003 Jan-Feb;31 Suppl:88-91.

Use of the Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) and guppy (Poecilia reticulata) in carcinogenesis testing under national toxicology program protocols.

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  • 1Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, The University of Southern Mississippi, Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564, USA. william.hawkins@usm.edu


A need exists for whole animal toxicity, mutagenesis, and carcinogenesis models that are alternative to the traditional rodent test models and that are economical, sensitive, and scientifically acceptable. Among small fish models, the Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) is preeminent for investigating effects of carcinogenic and/or toxic waterborne hazards to humans. The guppy (Poecilia reticulata), although less widely used, is valuable as a comparison species. Both species are easy to maintain and handle in the laboratory and there is a large body of background information on their responsiveness to a range of classes of carcinogens. There are considerable data on the occurrence of background diseases and on spontaneous neoplastic lesions, both of which occur relatively rarely. With few modifications, the medaka and guppy are amenable to carcinogenicity testing under the rigid standards established by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) for rodent tests. The advantages of the small fish in carcinogenesis studies are best realized in long-term studies that involve environmentally realistic exposures. Studies to identify chronic effects can be conducted in about 12 months, near the life span of medaka in our laboratory. Practically, 9-month studies are optimal but shorter study cycles and a variety of exposure/growout and initiation/promotion scenarios are available. Studies on 3 compounds tested in medaka under NTP protocols are under review and preliminary analysis indicates that chronic carcinogenicity bioassays with medaka, guppy, and potentially with other small fish species are feasible and scientifically valid.

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