Evaluation of a tetrazolium-based semiautomated colorimetric assay: assessment of chemosensitivity testing

Cancer Res. 1987 Feb 15;47(4):936-42.


Drug sensitivity assays were performed using a variation of a colorimetric [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT)] assay on V79, CHO-AuxB1, CHRC5, NCI-H460, and NCI-H249 cell lines following optimization of experimental conditions for each cell line. Results from this assay were compared with data assimilated simultaneously by clonogenic assay and by dye exclusion assay. Good correlation was observed using the CHO-AuxB1 cell line and the pleiotropic drug-resistant mutant CHRC5, with similar degrees of relative resistance observed with both the MTT and clonogenic assays. Good correlation was observed between the clonogenic and MTT assays for 1-h drug exposures, although the MTT assay was more sensitive to vinblastine. In general, the clonogenic assay was more sensitive when continuous drug exposures were utilized, although this was primarily related to the increased drug exposure time. While the use of the MTT assay in drug sensitivity testing of primary tumor samples is limited, since contaminating normal cells may also reduce the tetrazolium, the MTT assay can be semiautomated, and therefore it offers a valid, simple method of assessing chemosensitivity in established cell lines.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Autoanalysis
  • Cell Line
  • Cisplatin / therapeutic use
  • Clone Cells / drug effects
  • Colorimetry / methods*
  • Coloring Agents*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Doxorubicin / therapeutic use
  • Drug Resistance*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Melphalan / therapeutic use
  • Tetrazolium Salts*
  • Thiazoles*
  • Vinblastine / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Coloring Agents
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles
  • Vinblastine
  • Doxorubicin
  • thiazolyl blue
  • Cisplatin
  • Melphalan