A novel highly water-soluble tetrazolium salt, WST-1 (4-[3-(4-iodophenyl)-2-(4-nitrophenyl)-2H-5-tetrazolio]-1,3-benzene disulfonate sodium salt), can be reduced to water-soluble formazan with a superoxide anion. Here, the WST-1 assay was applied to detect the superoxide anion generated during the Maillard reaction. A sample solution containing carbonyl compounds such as glyceraldehyde and glycolaldehyde (5 mM) and Na-acetyl-L-lysine (10 mM) was incubated for 2 days at 37 degrees C. The detection of a superoxide anion generated in the sample was performed by the WST-1 assay, and the result was compared with the cytochrome c assay. The reduction of WST-1 was almost perfectly (86-96%) inhibited by the addition of the superoxide dismutase (SOD). On the contrary, the reduction of cytochrome c was slightly (20-25%) inhibited by the addition of SOD. A similar result was observed for the addition of 4,5-dihydroxy-1,3-benzene disulfonic acid (Tiron). These results mean that the specificity of WST-1 to the superoxide anion was superior to that of cytochrome c. It was also possible to continuously monitor superoxide anion generation during the Maillard reaction by the coexistence of WST-1 in the reaction solution.