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Toxicol In Vitro. 2003 Jun;17(3):357-66.

Morphological and physiological changes in Tetrahymena pyriformis for the in vitro cytotoxicity assessment of Triton X-100.

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  • 1Centro de Engenharia Biol√≥gica- IBQF, Universidade do Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057, Braga, Portugal.


Non-ionic surfactants such as Triton X-100 have been widely used in industrial processing and in cleaning products for almost 50 years, being effective and economic emulsifying, wetting agents, dispersants and solubilizers. Cleaning products containing these surfactants are disposed of mainly by discharge into wastewater, which receives biological treatment in wastewater treatment systems. However, surface-active agents interact with eukaryotic cell membranes leading to biological damage at high concentrations. Tetrahymena pyriformis was used here as model organism to assess the effects of Triton X-100 through a series of in vitro cytotoxicity tests. Growth rates and morphological changes were, by their simplicity and reproducibility, the simplest toxicological assays. Cytoskeleton analysis seemed to be related with phagocytosis rate. Viability was evaluated by two different tests. Calcein AM/EthD-1 was used to assess T. pyriformis membrane damage during the 48-h experiment. The colorimetric MTT assay proved to be highly sensitive even at very short periods of Triton X-100 exposure. Tests performed in this study included simple and fast bioassays that provide overall information on the morphological and physiological state of cells exposed to different non-lytic and lytic concentrations of Triton X-100.

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