36.4 +/Various cellular parameters were measured with regard to their usefulness as criteria of viability of isolated cells. Stainability by trypan blue and release of lactate dehydrogenase indicate only severe irreversible damage of cells. Neither endogenous respiration nor even the ATP/ADP ratio is a sensitive criterion of viability. On aging of cells, the ATP/ADP ratio remains high, even though the membrane potential, the intracellular K concentration and the content of adenine nucleotides decrease considerably. A sensitive, easily performed test is the stimulation of cellular respiration by 1mM succinate. Only a damaged plasma membrane allows succinate permeation of a rate sufficient to stimulate respiration. The membrane potential and the intracellular Na and K concentrations are the most sensitive criteria of viability, since they indicate the earliest changes on aging. (For freshly isolated cells, we found a membrane potential of 36.4 "/- 3.4 mv [n = 5], an intracellular K concentration of 109.0 +/- 9.1 mM, and an intracellular Na concentration of 47.0 +/- 13.4mM.) The incorporation of [14C]uridine also sensitively reflects cellular damage.