Toxicological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, benzophenone-2, on planulae and in vitro cells of the coral, Stylophora pistillata

Ecotoxicology. 2014 Mar;23(2):175-91. doi: 10.1007/s10646-013-1161-y. Epub 2013 Dec 19.


Benzophenone-2 (BP-2) is an additive to personal-care products and commercial solutions that protects against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. BP-2 is an "emerging contaminant of concern" that is often released as a pollutant through municipal and boat/ship wastewater discharges and landfill leachates, as well as through residential septic fields and unmanaged cesspits. Although BP-2 may be a contaminant on coral reefs, its environmental toxicity to reefs is unknown. This poses a potential management issue, since BP-2 is a known endocrine disruptor as well as a weak genotoxicant. We examined the effects of BP-2 on the larval form (planula) of the coral, Stylophora pistillata, as well as its toxicity to in vitro coral cells. BP-2 is a photo-toxicant; adverse effects are exacerbated in the light versus in darkness. Whether in darkness or light, BP-2 induced coral planulae to transform from a motile planktonic state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations of BP-2. BP-2 is a genotoxicant to corals, exhibiting a strong positive relationship between DNA-AP lesions and increasing BP-2 concentrations. BP-2 exposure in the light induced extensive necrosis in both the epidermis and gastro dermis. In contrast, BP-2 exposure in darkness induced autophagy and autophagic cell death.The LC50 of BP-2 in the light for an 8 and 24 hour exposure was 120 parts per million (ppm) and 165 parts per billion (ppb), respectively. The LC50s for BP-2 in darkness for the same time points were 144 parts per million and 548 parts per billion [corrected].

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / drug effects*
  • Benzophenones / toxicity*
  • Coral Reefs
  • Filtration
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sunscreening Agents / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Benzophenones
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • 2,2',4,4'-tetrahydroxybenzophenone