A tetrazolium salt has been used to develop a quantitative colorimetric assay for mammalian cell survival and proliferation. The assay detects living, but not dead cells and the signal generated is dependent on the degree of activation of the cells. This method can therefore be used to measure cytotoxicity, proliferation or activation. The results can be read on a multiwell scanning spectrophotometer (ELISA reader) and show a high degree of precision. No washing steps are used in the assay. The main advantages of the colorimetric assay are its rapidity and precision, and the lack of any radioisotope. We have used the assay to measure proliferative lymphokines, mitogen stimulations and complement-mediated lysis.