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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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The Improvement of In Vitro Cytotoxicity Testing for the Assessment of Acute Toxicity in Fish

Michael Gülden and Hasso Seibert

The use of fish cell line cytotoxicity tests as alternatives to acute lethality tests with fish is hampered by the clearly lower sensitivity of the fish cell line tests. Recently, it has been shown that this is not a unique feature of fish cells. In fact, the sensitivity of mammalian and human cell lines toward the cytotoxic actions of chemicals, in general, is comparable to that of fish cell lines. Reviewing some of our recent investigations, the objective of this paper is to show that the sensitivity of in vitro cytotoxicity testing and the correspondence between in vitro cytotoxic and acute fish toxic concentrations (LC50) can be increased, if: a) inhibition of cell growth instead of cell death is used as the endpoint; and b) the bioavailable free cytotoxic concentration (ECu50) of chemicals in vitro, instead of the nominal cytotoxic concentration (EC50), is used as the measure of cytotoxic potency. Based on these results, a pragmatic in vitro testing strategy for estimating the minimal aquatic toxic potency of chemicals is proposed.