An evaluation of the in vitro cytotoxicities of 50 chemicals by using an electrical current exclusion method versus the neutral red uptake and MTT assays

Altern Lab Anim. 2005 Dec;33(6):591-601. doi: 10.1177/026119290503300614.


According to the 2001 National Institutes of Health guidance document on using in vitro data to estimate in vivo starting doses for acute toxicity, the performance of the electrical current exclusion method (ECE) was studied for its suitability as an in vitro cytotoxicity test. In a comparative study, two established in vitro assays based on the quantification of metabolic processes necessary for cell proliferation or organelle integrity (the MTT/WST-8 [WST-8] assay and the neutral red uptake [NRU] assay), and two cytoplasm membrane integrity assays (the trypan blue exclusion [TB] and ECE methods), were performed. IC50 values were evaluated for 50 chemicals ranging from low to high toxicity, 46 of which are listed in Halles Registry of Cytotoxicity (RC). A high correlation was found between the IC50 values obtained in this study and the IC50 data published in the RC. The assay sensitivity was highest for the ECE method, and decreased from the WST-8 assay to the NRU assay to the TB assay. The consistent results of the ECE method are based on technical standardisation, high counting rate, and the ability to combine cell viability and cell volume analysis for detection of the first signs of cell necrosis and damage of the cytoplasmic membrane caused by cytotoxic agents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetonitriles / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Biological Assay / methods
  • Biological Assay / standards
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cytotoxins / toxicity*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Ferricyanides / toxicity*
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neutral Red / metabolism
  • Reference Standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tetrazolium Salts / metabolism
  • Toxicity Tests / methods*
  • Toxicity Tests / standards
  • Trypan Blue / metabolism


  • 2-(2-methoxy-4-nitrophenyl)-3-(4-nitrophenyl)-5-(2,4-disulfophenyl)-2H tetrazolium monosodium salt
  • Acetonitriles
  • Cytotoxins
  • Ferricyanides
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Neutral Red
  • Trypan Blue
  • potassium ferricyanide
  • acetonitrile