The method for cell number measurement in monolayer cultures by crystal violet staining published recently by Gillies et al. (R. G. Gillies, N. Didier, M. Denton (1986) Anal. Biochem. 159, 109-113) was modified and significantly improved. The procedure was adapted for use in 96-well plates since the method is inherently very sensitive. Modifications allowed fast and complete solubilization of dye adsorbed by cell nuclei during staining. Since light absorption of the unstained or destained cell layers is negligible, cell number measurements can be performed in the respective wells. Due to these features, multiple assays may be carried out rapidly using standard 96-well plate readers. In addition, it is shown that the sensitivity of the assay can be varied and easily controlled by choosing the appropriate pH during the staining procedure. This increases the flexibility of the method making it useful for determining cell density of a wide range of different cell types.