Method for the determination of oxygen consumption rates and diffusion coefficients in multicellular spheroids

Biophys J. 1984 Sep;46(3):343-8. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(84)84030-8.


A method has been developed for the quantitative evaluation of oxygen tension (PO2) distributions in multicellular spheroids measured with O2-sensitive microelectrodes. The experimental data showed that multicellular tumor spheroids in stirred growth media were characterized by a diffusion-depleted zone surrounding the spheroids. This zone was elicited by an unstirred layer of medium next to the spheroid leading to a continuous decrease in the PO2 values from the bulk medium towards the spheroid surface. Theoretical considerations demonstrate that the volume-related O2 consumption rate, Q, in the spheroids can be assessed by measuring the PO2 gradient in the diffusion-depleted zone outside the spheroids. Accordingly, Krogh's diffusion constant, KS, in the spheroids can be determined through measuring the PO2 gradient within the spheroids. The results obtained suggest that multicellular spheroids represent useful in vitro tumor models for the experimental and theoretical analysis of the interrelationship among O2 supply to tumor cells, O2 metabolism in tumors tissue, and the responsiveness of cancer cells to treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diffusion
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Sarcoma, Experimental / metabolism*


  • Oxygen