Cell-based high-content screening of small-molecule libraries

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2007 Oct;11(5):503-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2007.08.030. Epub 2007 Oct 10.


Advanced microscopy and the corresponding image analysis have been developed in recent years into a powerful tool for studying molecular and morphological events in cells and tissues. Cell-based high-content screening (HCS) is an upcoming methodology for the investigation of cellular processes and their alteration by multiple chemical or genetic perturbations. Multiparametric characterization of responses to such changes can be analyzed using intact live cells as reporter. These disturbances are screened for effects on a variety of molecular and cellular targets, including subcellular localization and redistribution of proteins. In contrast to biochemical screening, they detect the responses within the context of the intercellular structural and functional networks of normal and diseased cells, respectively. As cell-based HCS of small-molecule libraries is applied to identify and characterize new therapeutic lead compounds, large pharmaceutical companies are major drivers of the technology and have already shown image-based screens using more than 100,000 compounds.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cells / chemistry
  • Cells / drug effects*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy
  • Proteins / drug effects
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / therapeutic use


  • Proteins
  • Small Molecule Libraries