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Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Sep 4;46(17):9690-700. doi: 10.1021/es301729q. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

Predicting adult fish acute lethality with the zebrafish embryo: relevance of test duration, endpoints, compound properties, and exposure concentration analysis.

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Eawag-Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Department of Environmental Toxicology, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


The zebrafish embryo toxicity test has been proposed as an alternative for the acute fish toxicity test, which is required by various regulations for environmental risk assessment of chemicals. We investigated the reliability of the embryo test by probing organic industrial chemicals with a wide range of physicochemical properties, toxicities, and modes of toxic action. Moreover, the relevance of using measured versus nominal (intended) exposure concentrations, inclusion of sublethal endpoints, and different exposure durations for the comparability with reported fish acute toxicity was explored. Our results confirm a very strong correlation of zebrafish embryo to fish acute toxicity. When toxicity values were calculated based on measured exposure concentrations, the slope of the type II regression line was 1 and nearly passed through the origin (1 to 1 correlation). Measured concentrations also explained several apparent outliers. Neither prolonged exposure (up to 120 h) nor consideration of sublethal effects led to a reduced number of outliers. Yet, two types of compounds were less lethal to embryos than to adult fish: a neurotoxic compound acting via sodium channels (permethrin) and a compound requiring metabolic activation (allyl alcohol).

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