Combining short-term bioassays using fish and crustacean model organisms with ToxCast in vitro data and broad-spectrum chemical analysis for environmental risk assessment of the river water (Sava, Croatia)

Olga Malev, Sanja Babić, Anja Sima Cota, Draženka Stipaničev, Siniša Repec, Martina Drnić, Mario Lovrić, Krunoslav Bojanić, Sandra Radić Brkanac, Rozelindra Čož-Rakovac, Göran Klobučar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study focused on the short-term whole organism bioassays (WOBs) on fish (Danio rerio) and crustaceans (Gammarus fossarum and Daphnia magna) to assess the negative biological effects of water from the major European River Sava and the comparison of the obtained results with in vitro toxicity data (ToxCast database) and Risk Quotient (RQ) methodology. Pollution profiles of five sampling sites along the River Sava were assessed by simultaneous chemical analysis of 562 organic contaminants (OCs) of which 476 were detected. At each sampling site, pharmaceuticals/illicit drugs category was mostly represented by their cumulative concentration, followed by categories industrial chemicals, pesticides and hormones. An exposure-activity ratio (EAR) approach based on ToxCast data highlighted steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, antiepileptics/neuroleptics, industrial chemicals and hormones as compounds with the highest biological potential. Summed EAR-based prediction of toxicity showed a good correlation with the estimated toxicity of assessed sampling sites using WOBs. WOBs did not exhibit increased mortality but caused various sub-lethal biological responses that were dependant relative to the sampling site pollution intensity as well as species sensitivity. Exposure of G. fossarum and D. magna to river water-induced lower feeding rates increased GST activity and TBARS levels. Zebrafish D. rerio embryo exhibited a significant decrease in heartbeat rate, failure in pigmentation formation, as well as inhibition of ABC transporters. Nuclear receptor activation was indicated as the biological target of greatest concern based on the EAR approach. A combined approach of short-term WOBs, with a special emphasis on sub-lethal endpoints, and chemical characterization of water samples compared against in vitro toxicity data from the ToxCast database and RQs can provide a comprehensive insight into the negative effect of pollutants on aquatic organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118440
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Acute aquatic toxicity
  • Behavior
  • Biochemical biomarkers
  • In vitro toxicity prediction
  • Whole-organism bioassays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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