Institute of Fisheries Ecology

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27572 Bremerhaven
Phone: + 49 471 94460 201
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Toxic impact of contaminants assessed with the zebrafish embryo model system


Binokular mit 24-Well Platte - Fischeitest (c) Fabian Weichert
Binokular mit 24-Well Platte - Fischeitest (© Fabian Weichert)

The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is one of the favourite organisms for developmental biologists and for toxicologists.The embryonal stage of this fish is completed in a few days and can be observed easyly due to the transparent chorion.

Background and Objective

The early life stage test with zebrafish eggs can help to assess toxic impact of pollutants by orbservation of developmental abberations in the embryo. After 48h of embryonal development the test is terminated. The same embryos can be used for gene expression studies or other effect specific methods.


Briefly, fertilized and well-developed eggs in the 4 to 8 cell stage were selected for the test and placed in 24-well dishes. In each well 5 eggs were exposed in 1 mL test solution containing DMSO and water. 60 eggs were used for each sample (known concentration of contaminant, positive or negative control). Incubation took place at 26°C for 48 h.

After that Eggs were monitored for coagulation and malformations using an inverse microscope. Lethal (coagulation, missing heartbeat, missing somites, missing tail detachment from the yolk sac, missing spontaneous movement) and non-lethal malformations (yolk sac edema, spine deformation, no pigmentation, incomplete eye development) were reported separately. The test ist repeated twice

Data and Methods

Results are presented as dose-response curves for calculation of the desired threshold levels such as EC10 or EC50. All lethal an non-lethal deformations are reported. Some alterations allow insight in the mode of Action of the chemical.

Our Research Questions

  • What is the acute toxicity of a chemical substance for a vertebrate organism?
  • Is the substance teratogenous?
  • Is the substance neurotoxic?

Preliminary Results

Numerous results obtained with the fish embryo test investigating single substances as well as environmental extracts have been published as listed below.


Involved Thünen-Partners


Permanent task 1.2001 - 12.2020

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing


Results 1 - 5 of 7

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  1. Hudjetz S, Herrmann H, Cofalla C, Brinkmann M, Kammann U, Schäffer A, Schüttrumpf H, Hollert H (2014) An attempt to assess the relevance of flood events - biomarker response of rainbow trout exposed to resuspended natural sediments in an annular flume. Environ Sci Pollut Res 21(24):13744-13757, doi:10.1007/s11356-013-2414-2
  2. Brinkmann M, Eichbaum K, Kammann U, Hudjetz S, Cofalla C, Buchinger S, Reifferscheid G, Schüttrumpf H, Preuss TG, Hollert H (2014) Physiologically-based toxicokinetic models help identifying the key factors affecting contaminant uptake during flood events. Aquatic Toxicol 152:38-46, DOI:10.1016/j.aquatox.2014.03.021
  3. Brinkmann M, Hudjetz S, Kammann U, Hennig M, Kuckelkorn J, Chinoraks M, Cofalla C, Wiseman S, Giesy JP, Schäffer A, Hecker M, Wölz J, Schüttrumpf H, Hollert H (2013) How flood events affect rainbow trout: Evidence of a biomarker cascade in rainbow trout after exposure to PAH contaminated sediment suspensions. Aquatic Toxicol 128-129(1):13-24, DOI:10.1016/j.aquatox.2012.11.010
  4. Cofalla C, Hudjetz S, Roger S, Brinkmann M, Frings RM, Wölz J, Schmidt B, Schäffer A, Kammann U, Hecker M, Hollert H, Schüttrumpf H (2012) A combined hydraulic and toxicological approach to assess re-suspended sediments during simulated flood events : Part 2, applicability of (spiked) artificial sediment according to OECD test guideline 218. J Soils Sediments 12(3):429-442
  5. Brinkmann M, Hudjetz S, Herrmann H, Cofalla C, Kammann U, Hecker M, Schüttrumpf H, Schäffer A, Hollert H (2012) Floodsearch: Hochwasser im Labormaßstab - Ökotoxikologie und Wasserbau arbeiten Hand in Hand bei der Hochwasserfolgenbewertung. Mitt Fachgruppe Umweltchemie Ökotoxikol Gesellsch Dt Chemiker(4):88-91

Results 1 - 5 of 7

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