Particulate matter (PM) exposure is a public health burden with poorly understood health effect mechanisms and lacking an efficient model to compare the vast diversity of PM exposures. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are amenable to high-throughput screening (HTS), but few studies have investigated PM toxicity in zebrafish, despite the multitude of advantages. To develop standardized exposure procedures, the urban PM standard reference material (SRM) 1649b was used to systematically determine sample preparation methods, design experimental controls, determine concentration ranges and evaluation procedures. Embryos (n = 32/treatment) were dechorionated and placed into 96-well plates containing SRM1649b (0-200 μg/mL) at 6 h post fertilization (hpf). Developmental toxicity was assessed at 24 and 120 hpf by evaluating morphological changes, embryonic/larval photomotor behavior, and mortality. Differences from blank medium and particle controls were observed for all biological responses measured. Differences due to SRM1649b concentration and preparation method were also observed. Exposure to SRM1649b from DMSO extraction was associated with changes in morphology and mortality and hypoactivity in photomotor responses compared to the DMSO control for the whole particle suspension (76, 68%) and soluble fraction (59, 54%) during the embryonic and larval stages, respectively. Changes in behavioral responses were not observed following exposure to the insoluble fraction of SRM1649b from DMSO extraction. The toxicity bias from PM preparation provided further impetus to select a single HTS exposure method. Based on the biological activity results, the soluble fraction of SRM1649b from DMSO extraction was selected and shown to have concentration dependent cyp1a/GFP expression. This rapid, sensitive and consistently scalable model is a potentially cost-effective vertebrate approach to study the toxicology of PM from diverse locations, and provides a path to identifying the toxic material(s) in these samples, and discover the mechanisms of toxicity.
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