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Water Res. 2001 Oct;35(14):3448-56.

Assessing chemical toxicity with the bioluminescent photobacterium (Vibrio fischeri): a comparison of three commercial systems.

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Faculty of Applied Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK.


The inhibition of light emitted by the bioluminescent bacterium, Vibrio fischeri, is the basis for several toxicity bioassays. The inhibitory effects of 81 chemicals, after 5 min contact time, were studied at eight concentrations using reagents from three commercial assay systems (ToxAlert 10, Microtox and LUMIStox). Solubility in water was the limiting factor in determining the selection of chemicals for study. The effective nominal concentrations (EC) resulting in 20, 50 and 80% inhibition were determined using Ln dose/Ln gamma plots and the results obtained for each system were compared by linear regression. The chemical concentrations producing 10-90% inhibition extended over 9 orders of magnitude and ranged from a minimum of 0.001 ppm to a maximum of 1,000,000 ppm. The toxicity of many chemicals was apparently related to their pH in solution and at high chemical concentrations, to osmotic imbalance. The fact that the same operator tested the same solutions simultaneously on three different systems reduced sources of error and variability and improved the consistency and reliability of the results. Only five compounds gave EC 50s that varied more than three-fold between assays. These data provide comparisons of toxicity that have not been previously available and demonstrate that, when used under standardised conditions, these bioluminescence-based toxicity assays produce very similar results.

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