Department Environmental Toxicology

Predicting acute fish toxicity using in vitro models

The acute fish toxicity test is one of the most frequently performed tests in regulatory environmental risk assessment in order to assess the toxicity of chemicals and effluents. Because the effect measured is survival, resp. death of the fish, this test assumes the highest severity degree in animal testing.

Against this background, we have developed alternatives to this test. Initially, the focus was on early life stages of the zebrafish - a corresponding OECD guideline (OECD236) has existed for several years. Therefore, we set out to develop an alternative that does not require fish at all: Cell lines. A test that we established with a gill cell line was adopted by ISO in April 2019 (ISO21115). In the same year, our work received the Swiss 3Rs Award des 3R Kompetenzzentrum Schweiz (3RCC). Since then we were also able to convince the expert panels and country representatives of the OECD of the robustness and informative value of this test: in April 2021 it was adopted as the first in vitro test guideline in the field of ecotoxicology (OECD 249). The cell line test is also offered as a service by our spin-off  aQuatox-Solutions GmbH.

Adoption as OECD guideline

ISO certification

The zebrafish embryo toxicity test



Schug, H.; Maner, J.; Hülskamp, M.; Begnaud, F.; Debonneville, C.; Berthaud, F.; Gimeno, S.; Schirmer, K. (2019) Extending the concept of predicting fish acute toxicity in vitro to the intestinal cell line RTgutGC, ALTEX: Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, (9 pp.), doi:10.14573/altex.1905032, Institutional Repository
Tanneberger, K.; Knöbel, M.; Busser, F. J. M.; Sinnige, T. L.; Hermens, J. L. M.; Schirmer, K. (2013) Predicting fish acute toxicity using a fish gill cell line-based toxicity assay, Environmental Science and Technology, 47(2), 1110-1119, doi:10.1021/es303505z, Institutional Repository
Knöbel, M.; Busser, F. J. M.; Rico-Rico, Á.; Kramer, N. I.; Hermens, J. L. M.; Hafner, C.; Tanneberger, K.; Schirmer, K.; Scholz, S. (2012) Predicting adult fish acute lethality with the zebrafish embryo: relevance of test duration, endpoints, compound properties, and exposure concentration analysis, Environmental Science and Technology, 46(17), 9690-9700, doi:10.1021/es301729q, Institutional Repository
Tanneberger, K.; Rico-Rico, A.; Kramer, N. I.; Busser, F. J. M.; Hermens, J. L. M.; Schirmer, K. (2010) Effects of solvents and dosing procedure on chemical toxicity in cell-based in vitro assays, Environmental Science and Technology, 44(12), 4775-4781, doi:10.1021/es100045y, Institutional Repository
Kramer, N. I.; Hermens, J. L. M.; Schirmer, K. (2009) The influence of modes of action and physicochemical properties of chemicals on the correlation between in vitro and acute fish toxicity data, Toxicology in Vitro, 23(7), 1372-1379, doi:10.1016/j.tiv.2009.07.029, Institutional Repository
Schirmer, K.; Tanneberger, K.; Kramer, N. I.; Völker, D.; Scholz, S.; Hafner, C.; Lee, L. E. J.; Bols, N. C.; Hermens, J. L. M. (2008) Developing a list of reference chemicals for testing alternatives to whole fish toxicity tests, Aquatic Toxicology, 90(2), 128-137, doi:10.1016/j.aquatox.2008.08.005, Institutional Repository