- Fish skin is very vulnerable to damage from physical and chemical pollutants because it is in direct contact with the aquatic environment. In this study, the effect of gamma radiation on primary cultures of rainbow trout skin was investigated. Primary cultures containing two cell types, epidermal cells and goblet mucous cells, were exposed to doses ranging from 0.5-15 Gy 60Co gamma radiation. Expression of PCNA, c-myc and BCL2 was investigated as well as growth and levels of apoptosis and necrosis. Morphological and functional changes were also studied. The irradiated cultures showed evidence of a dose-dependent increase in necrosis and enhanced proliferation as well as morphological damage. In addition, mucous cell area was found to decrease significantly after irradiation. The study shows the value of these primary cultures as in vitro models for studying radiation effects. They provide an effective alternative to whole-animal exposures for radiation risk assessment.