Fish egg injection as an alternative exposure route for early life stage toxicity studies: Description of two unique methods: Chapter 4

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In the environment, lipophilic contaminants such as halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (HAHs, e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, e.g., benzo[a]pyrene) readily bioaccumulate in fish, and the bioaccumulation of these lipophilic chemicals by adult fish may have significant consequences on the development and survival of their offspring. Halogenated and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons translocate from adult female body stores into eggs during oocyte maturation, and early life stages of fish are often more sensitive than adults to the toxicity of these chemicals. Thus, the presence of persistent, bioaccumulative contaminants in the environment may pose a risk to fish early life stage survival and ultimately reduce recruitment into the adult population.

Typically, standard early life stage toxicity studies exposed embryos, larvae, and juveniles to graded concentrations of waterborne toxicants, and dose-response relationships are based on the concentrations of chemicals in the water. However, use of waterborne exposure to assess the toxicity of persistent, bioaccumulative contaminants, such as HAHs and PAHs, has two significant drawbacks. First, uptake of hydrophobic chemicals, such as HAHs and PAHs, into the developing embryo from water is not a significant route of exposure in the environment since concentrations of these chemicals freely dissolved in water are extremely low. Rather, maternal deposition into developing oocytes is the most significant source of these chemicals to the embryo. Second, the dose received by the target tissue, in this case the developing embryo, is the most accurate predictor of the toxic response, and since extrapolation from water concentrations of the chemical to egg concentrations is required, the exact dose received by the embryo can only be estimated, often with large uncertainty. Due to these drawbacks, it is important to develop an alternative exposure method that will directly expose the developing embryo without the need to chronically expose adult fish with subsequent natural deposition of hydrophobic chemicals into the oocytes. Fish egg injection provides this exposure route. Embryos are exposed directly after fertilization with known doses of contaminants, the dose is delivered prior to critical developmental events, and extrapolation of the dose received by the embryo is not needed.

We have developed two unique fish egg injection methods as alternative routes of exposure for fish early life stage toxicity studies of lipophilic environmental contaminants. With either method, individual fish eggs are injected with a known dose of chemical. The first approach, a microinjection method, originally developed to assess the developmental toxicity of HAH congeners to early life stages of salmonids, utilizes micro-syringes, 30- gauge stainless steel injection needles, and micro- to nanoliter injection volume. The second approach, a nano-injection method, utilizes glass capillary micropipettes with 2 to 10 µm tips as injection needles, and nano- to picoliter injection volume, allowing injection of nearly any size of fish egg.

Both of these egg injection methods allow an investigator to assess the toxicity of lipophilic environmental contaminants to early life stages of fish in a manner that realistically reflects environmental exposure and allows accurate quantitation of the dose to the developing embryo. These injection techniques, however, are not limited to use with only lipophilic chemicals. Since the developmental toxicity of many environmental contaminants ultimately depends on the dose received by the embryo, these egg injection methods could serve as a realistic exposure route in many fish early life stage toxicity studies.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Fish egg injection as an alternative exposure route for early life stage toxicity studies: Description of two unique methods: Chapter 4
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher CRC Press
Publisher location Boca Raton, FL
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description 32 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Techniques in aquatic toxicology
First page 41
Last page 72
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