Impact of fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOH) on the molecular and macroscopic phenotype of Tetrahymena thermophila

Zhanyun Wang, Asad Ud-Daula, Stefan Fiedler, Karl Werner Schramm

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Background, aim, and scope: As possible precursors of PFOA, fluorotelomer alcohols are a class of highly fluorinated and volatile compounds. Although they are widespread in the environment, little toxicity data is available. The present study focused on testing the population growth impairment potential of FTOH. Moreover, certain efforts were made to find the possible effect mechanism of these compounds. Materials and methods: The growth inhibition test was made both in an open system (96-well microplates) and in a closed system (closed flasks). In addition, cells were stained with acridine orange and observed under fluorescence microscopy at 488 nm. Furthermore, direct membrane damage was checked by measuring LDH leakage. Results: For 8:2 FTOH and 10:2 FTOH, no growth inhibition was found in either of the systems. In contrast, 4:2 FTOH interfered with population growth in the closed system (EC50 = 276. 1 mg/L), whereas, 6:2 FTOH had an influence on population growth both in the closed system (EC50 = 64. 3 mg/L) and in the open system. Macronucleus destruction was observed with 6:2 FTOH. No direct membrane damage was detectable. Discussion: With a closed system, 4:2 and 6:2 FTOH were found to be capable of impairing population growth. However, this potential was to a certain extent underestimated. With the help of the air-water distribution coefficient, the real EC50 was estimated within the interval [203. 2, 276. 1] mg/L and [14. 7, 64. 3] mg/L for 4:2 and 6:2 FTOH, respectively. Some evidence, such as the absence of direct membrane or macronucleus damage, indicate that certain FTOH could likely cause apoptosis. But the exact effect mechanism could not be determined on the basis of the present results. Conclusions: Comparing the results from the two test systems, tests in a closed system are more reliable for testing these volatile compounds with Tetrahymena thermophila than in an open system. Recommendations and perspectives: The present study has highlighted several future research directions. For ecotoxicological risk assessment of FTOH, their distribution and environmental fate should be determined. To understand the effect mechanism, more tests could be conducted to test whether apoptosis is caused. Finally, in order to standardize test procedure in a closed system, more compounds should be investigated in the closed system to clarify the sensitivity of the test procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-164
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Closed system
  • Fluorotelomer alcohols
  • Growth inhibition
  • LDH
  • Macronucleus
  • Morphology


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