, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 171-184

First online:

In vitro cell-toxicity screening as an alternative animal model for coral toxicology: effects of heat stress, sulfide, rotenone, cyanide, and cuprous oxide on cell viability and mitochondrial function

  • Craig A. DownsAffiliated withHaereticus Environmental LaboratoryOffice of Public Health Studies, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii—Manoa Email author 
  • , John E. FauthAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Central Florida
  • , Virgil D. DownsAffiliated withHaereticus Environmental Laboratory
  • , Gary K. OstranderAffiliated withPacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii—Manoa

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The logistics involved in obtaining and maintaining large numbers of corals hampers research on the toxicological effects of environmental contaminants for this ecologically and economically important taxon. A method for creating and culturing single-cell suspensions of viable coral cells was developed. Cell segregation/separation was based on specific cell densities and resulting cell cultures were viable for at least 2 mos. Low-density cells lacking symbiotic zooxanthallae and rich in mitochondria were isolated and cultured for toxicity studies. Cells were exposed to differing degrees or concentrations of heat stress, rotenone, cyanide, sulfide, and cuprous oxide. Cells were assayed for mitochondrial membrane potential using the fluorescent probe, JC-9, and for overall viability using the MTT/formazan spectrophotometric viability assay. Significant differences were observed between controls and treatments and the efficacy of this method was validated; only 2 cm2 of tissue was required for a seven-point concentration-exposure series.


Cell isolation Coral Cyanide Cytotoxicity Cuprous oxide Sulfide