Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, 230:231 | Cite as

Increased Mortality, Delayed Hatching, Development Aberrations and Reduced Activity in Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) Exposed to Phenethyl Isothiocyanate

  • Asa B. WhiteEmail author
  • Angelo P. Pernetta
  • Chris B. Joyce
  • Neil Crooks


Plants of the order Brassicaceae have evolved a chemical defence against herbivory: the glucosinolate-myrosinase system. Mechanical damage to plant tissues, such as grazing, initiates the production of phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a compound toxic to invertebrates. Mechanical damage caused during biofumigation and the harvesting and washing of watercress presents routes for PEITC release into waterbodies, such as the chalk stream spawning sites of brown trout (Salmo trutta). This laboratory study exposed developing S. trutta embryos to PEITC at concentrations of 0.01, 0.1 and 1 μg/L. S. trutta exposed to 1 μg/L PEITC during embryonic development resulted in 100% mortality after four dose days. Exposure to 0.1 μg/L PEITC resulted in an approximate fourfold increase in mortality relative to the controls, while exposure to 0.01 μg/L PEITC had a negligible effect on embryo mortality. Embryos exposed to 0.1 μg/L PEITC showed a significant delay in hatching and produced alevins with significantly shorter total lengths, lighter body weights and an approximate threefold increase in spinal deformities relative to those exposed to the controls and 0.01 μg/L PEITC. The results of a motor activity assay demonstrate that alevins exposed to PEITC showed a significant decrease in swimming activity compared with control animals during periods of illumination. The increased mortality, teratogenic effects and impaired behaviour in S. trutta following embryonic exposure to relatively low concentrations of PEITC highlight a need to accurately quantify and monitor environmental levels of PEITC.


PEITC Watercress Biofumigation Chalk stream 



We would like to thank Allenbrook Trout Farm, Dorset and The Berkshire Trout Farm, Berkshire, for the supply of Salmo trutta gametes that were used in this study.

Funding Information

This study was financially supported by The Vitacress Conservation Trust and a University of Brighton PhD Studentship.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Aquatic Environments, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular SciencesUniversity of BrightonBrightonUK
  2. 2.Centre for Aquatic Environments, School of Environment and TechnologyUniversity of BrightonBrightonUK

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