Tributyltin-induced effects on early life stages of minnows Phoxinus phoxinus

  • Karl Fent
  • Willy Meier


Toxicity and histopathological effects of tributyltin chloride (TBT) were studied in early life stages of minnows Phoxinus phoxinus. Eggs and yolk sac fry (newly hatched larvae) were exposed in a static-renewal procedure to aqueous TBT concentrations ranging from 0.82 to 19.51 μg/L for 3 to 10 days at 16°C and 21°C, respectively. Aqueous TBT concentrations were determined by capillary GC-FPD and revealed a concentration decrease during the static phase. TBT exposure led to mortality, behavioral, gross morphological and histopathological effects. In larvae, increased mortality, deformation of body axis, paralysis and opaque eyes occurred at 4.26 μg/L TBT and higher both in the embryonic-larval and larval exposure. Histological changes were evident at initial TBT concentrations of 0.82 up to 19.51 μg/L, and were more pronounced after embryonic-larval exposure than after larval exposure. Degenerative alterations occurred in skin, skeletal muscle, kidney, corneal epithelium, lens, pigment layer of the retina and choroid, retina, and CNS including spinal cord. Hydropic vacuolation of the cytoplasm and, in more pronounced cases, irreversible nuclear alterations such as pycnosis, karyorrhexis and karyolysis were also evident. Exposure to 0.82 μg/L TBT resulted in alterations in skin, muscle and kidney, with greater effects occurring at 21°C than at 16°C. Toxicity was significantly reduced in the presence of sediment. The observed histopathological effects suggest that early life stages of fish may be negatively affected in environments that are considerably polluted by TBT.


Retina Histological Change Early Life Stage Body Axis Corneal Epithelium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alzieu C (1986) TBT detrimental effects on oyster culture in France-Evolution since antifouling paint regulation. In: Oceans '86 Organotin Symposium Conference Proceedings. Marine Technology Society, IEEE, Washington, DC, Vol. 4, pp 1130–1134Google Scholar
  2. Alzieu C, Sanjuan J, Michel P, Borel M, Dreno JP (1989) Monitoring and assessment of butyltins in Atlantic coastal waters. Mar Pollut Bull 20:22–26Google Scholar
  3. Beaumont AR and Newman PB (1986) Low levels of tributyltin reduce growth of marine micro-algae. Mar Pollut Bull 17:457–461Google Scholar
  4. Brown AW, Verschoyle RD, Street BW, Aldridge WN, Grindley H (1984) The neurotoxicity of trimethyltin chloride in hamsters, gerbils and marmosets. J Appl Toxicol 4:12–21Google Scholar
  5. Bryan GW, Gibbs PE, Hummerstone LG, Burt GR (1986) The decline of the gastropod Nucella lapillus around south-west England: evidence for the effect of tributyltin from antifouling paints. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 66:611–640Google Scholar
  6. Bryan GW, Gibbs PE, Huggett RJ, Curtis LA, Bailey DS, Dauer DM (1989) Effects of tributyltin pollution on the mud snail, Ilyanassa obsoleta, from the York River and Sarah Creek, Chesapeake Bay. Mar Pollut Bull 20:458–462Google Scholar
  7. Bushong SJ, Hall LW Jr, Hall WS, Johnson WE, Herman RL (1988) Acute toxicity of tributyltin to selected Chesapeake Bay fish and invertebrates. Wat Res 22:1027–1032Google Scholar
  8. Bushong SJ, Ziegenfuss MC, Unger MA, Hall LW Jr (1990) Chronic tributyltin toxicity experiments with the Chesapeake Bay copepod, Acartia tonsa. Environ Toxicol Chem 9:359–366Google Scholar
  9. Chliamovitch YP, Kuhn C (1977) Behavioural, haematological and histological studies on acute toxicity of bis(tri-n-butyltin) oxide on Salmo gairdneri Richardson and Tilapia rendalli Boulenger. J Fish Biol 10:575–585Google Scholar
  10. De Vries H, Penninks AH, Snoeij NJ, Seinen W (1991) Comparative toxicity of organotin compounds to rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) yolk sac fry. Sci. Total Environ 103:229–243Google Scholar
  11. Fent K (1991) Bioconcentration and elimination of tributyltin chloride by embryos and larvae of minnows Phoxinus phoxinus. Aquatic Toxicol 20:147–158Google Scholar
  12. -- (1992) Embryotoxic effects of tributyltin on the minnow Phoxinus phoxinus. Environ Pollut (in press).Google Scholar
  13. Fent K, Müller MD (1991) Occurrence of organotins in municipal wastewater and sewage sludge and behavior in a treatment plant. Environ Sci Technol 25:489–493Google Scholar
  14. Fent K, Hunn J (1991) Phenyltins in water, sediment and biota of freshwater marinas. Environ Sci Technol 25:956–963Google Scholar
  15. Hall LW Jr, Pinkney AE (1985) Acute and sublethal effects of organotin compounds on aquatic biota: An interpretative literature evaluation. CRC Crit Rev Toxicol 14:159–209Google Scholar
  16. Hargis WJ, Zwerner DE (1989) Some effects of sediment-borne contaminants on development and cytomorphology of teleost eye-lens, epithelial-cells and their derivatives. Mar Environ Res 28: 399–405Google Scholar
  17. Holm G, Norrgren L, Lindén, O (1991) Reproductive and histopathological effects of long-term experimental exposure to bis(tributyltin) oxide (TBTO) on the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus Linnaeus. J Fish Biol 38:373–386Google Scholar
  18. Martin RC, Dixon DG, Maguire RJ, Hodson PV, Tkacz RJ (1989) Acute toxicity, uptake, depuration and tissue distribution of tri-n-butyltin in rainbow trout, Salmo gairdneri. Aquat Toxicol 15: 37–52Google Scholar
  19. Meier W, Pfister K (1981) Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) in pike (Esox lucius L.): Clinical, macroscopic, histological and elecron-microscopical findings. Direct visualization of the Estven-virus. Schweiz Arch Tierheilk 123:27–49Google Scholar
  20. Seinen W, Helder T, Vernij H, Penninks A, Leeuwangh P (1981) Short term toxicity of tri-n-butyltin chloride in rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri Richardson) yolk sac fry. Sci Total Environ 19: 155–166Google Scholar
  21. Stoner HB, Farnes JM, Duff JI (1955) Studies on the toxicity of alkyl tin compounds. Br J Pharmacol 10:16–25Google Scholar
  22. U'ren SC (1983) Acute toxicity of bis(tributyltin) oxide to a marine copepod. Mar Pollut Bull 14:303–306Google Scholar
  23. Walsh GE, McLaughlan LL, Lores EM, Louie MK, Deans CH (1985). Effects of organotins on growth and survival of two marine diatoms, Skeletonema costatum and Thalassiosira pseudonata. Chemosphere 14:383–392Google Scholar
  24. Wester PW, Canton JH (1987) Histopathological study of Poecilia reticulata (guppy) after long-term exposure to bis(tri-n-butyltin) oxide (TBTO) and di-n-butyltindichloride (DBTC). Aquat Toxicol 10:143–165Google Scholar
  25. — (1990) The toxicity of bis(tri-n-butyltin) oxide (TBTO) and di-n-butyltindichloride (DBTC) in the small fish species Oryzias latipes (medaka) and Poecilia reticulata (guppy). Aquat Toxicol 16:53–72Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karl Fent
    • 1
  • Willy Meier
    • 2
  1. 1.Swiss Federal Institute for Water Resources and Water Pollution Control (EAWAG/ETH)KastanienbaumSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Animal PathologyUniversity of BerneBerneSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations