Increased mortality, delayed hatching, development aberrations and reduced activity in brown trout (Salmo trutta) exposed to phenethyl isothiocyanate

Asa White, Angelo Pernetta, Chris Joyce, Neil Crooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number231
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalWater, Air and Soil Pollution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Water, Air and Soil Pollution. The final authenticated version is available online at:”


  • Watercress
  • Biofumigation
  • Chalk stream


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