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.

On this background, we aim to develop alternatives to this test. The initial focus was on early life stages of zebrafish – an according OECD test guideline (OECD236) exists for several years. We thus are now focusing on alternatives which do not require any fish any more: cell lines. One test that we established with a fish gill cell line has been adopted by ISO (ISO21115) in April 2019; this test is also offered as a service by our spin-off, aQuatox-Solutions Ltd. We are now working with experts of the OECD in order to establish this test on the OECD level as well.

Media reports:


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