Many cell-based assays interrogating cell pathway activation employ protocols that require microscopic imaging techniques. However, such assays are not in general widely adopted for primary screening. Protein complementation, particularly of enzymes, provides an alternative approach for cell pathway analysis, with a principal advantage that is amenable to high throughput screening using microtiter plate protocols. Notably, alpha complementation of the enzyme beta-galactosidase has been exploited as a technology in this regard, using substrates that generates luminescent signals. This review describes the various uses of this flexible technology to cell-based assay development.