Investigating alternatives to the fish early-life stage test: a strategy for discovering and annotating adverse outcome pathways for early fish development

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2014 Jan;33(1):158-69. doi: 10.1002/etc.2403. Epub 2013 Nov 19.


The fish early-life stage (FELS) test (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] test guideline 210) is the primary test used internationally to estimate chronic fish toxicity in support of ecological risk assessments and chemical management programs. As part of an ongoing effort to develop efficient and cost-effective alternatives to the FELS test, there is a need to identify and describe potential adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) relevant to FELS toxicity. To support this endeavor, the authors outline and illustrate an overall strategy for the discovery and annotation of FELS AOPs. Key events represented by major developmental landmarks were organized into a preliminary conceptual model of fish development. Using swim bladder inflation as an example, a weight-of-evidence-based approach was used to support linkage of key molecular initiating events to adverse phenotypic outcomes and reduced young-of-year survival. Based on an iterative approach, the feasibility of using key events as the foundation for expanding a network of plausible linkages and AOP knowledge was explored and, in the process, important knowledge gaps were identified. Given the scope and scale of the task, prioritization of AOP development was recommended and key research objectives were defined relative to factors such as current animal-use restrictions in the European Union and increased demands for fish toxicity data in chemical management programs globally. The example and strategy described are intended to guide collective efforts to define FELS-related AOPs and develop resource-efficient predictive assays that address the toxicological domain of the OECD 210 test.

Keywords: Adverse outcome pathways; Animal alternative; Aquatic toxicology; Fish early-life stage toxicity; Mode of action; Risk assessment; Swim bladder.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Fishes*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Toxicity Tests, Chronic / methods*