The Ames Salmonella/microsome mutagenicity assay

Mutat Res. 2000 Nov 20;455(1-2):29-60. doi: 10.1016/s0027-5107(00)00064-6.


The Ames Salmonella/microsome mutagenicity assay (Salmonella test; Ames test) is a short-term bacterial reverse mutation assay specifically designed to detect a wide range of chemical substances that can produce genetic damage that leads to gene mutations. The test employs several histidine dependent Salmonella strains each carrying different mutations in various genes in the histidine operon. These mutations act as hot spots for mutagens that cause DNA damage via different mechanisms. When the Salmonella tester strains are grown on a minimal media agar plate containing a trace of histidine, only those bacteria that revert to histidine independence (his(+)) are able to form colonies. The number of spontaneously induced revertant colonies per plate is relatively constant. However, when a mutagen is added to the plate, the number of revertant colonies per plate is increased, usually in a dose-related manner. The Ames test is used world-wide as an initial screen to determine the mutagenic potential of new chemicals and drugs. The test is also used for submission of data to regulatory agencies for registration or acceptance of many chemicals, including drugs and biocides. International guidelines have been developed for use by corporations and testing laboratories to ensure uniformity of testing procedures. This review provides historical aspects of how the Ames was developed and detailed procedures for performing the test, including the design and interpretation of results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Histidine / metabolism
  • Microsomes
  • Mutagenicity Tests / methods*
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Salmonella / drug effects*


  • Mutagens
  • Histidine