Dead cells represent a significant source of interference in the flow cytometric analysis of viable cells primarily due to nonspecific uptake of probes, increased autofluorescence, and altered antigen expression and DNA content. Traditional methods of dead cell exclusion, based on light scatter or uptake of dyes such as propidium iodide (PI) or fluorescein diacetate (FDA), are appropriate for the analysis of fresh, relatively homogeneous samples. However, they are incompatible with the development in this laboratory of a solid tumor monoclonal antibody panel incorporating combined surface and intracellular staining: Light scatter is unreliable in heterogeneous samples such as solid tumors, and most of the widely used viability probes are incompatible, due to weak or reversible binding, with the use of permeabilizing agents for intracellular staining. To determine the best viability marker for inclusion in the solid tumor panel, we compared cultured cells held under hypoxic conditions for up to 15 days after harvest, stained with eight viability probes, and processed according to the solid tumor panel procedure (unprocessed cells from each day, stained with PI, were used as standards). The viability probes included PI (in processed and unprocessed samples); 7-aminoactinomycin D (7-AAD); TO-PRO-3; laser dye styryl (LDS)-751; ethidium monoazide (EMA); and actin, cytokeratin, and tubulin indirectly labelled with sheep-alpha-mouse-FITC (SAM-FITC). The selection criteria for the best viability probe included broad cell type specificity: low nonspecific staining of live cells, specific staining of dead cells strong enough to withstand the permeabilization procedure, high signal-to-noise ratio throughout the time course, and compatibility with the four other fluorescent probes making up the tumor antibody panel. TO-PRO-3, LDS-751, and PI (in processed cells) stained both live and dead cells indiscriminately. Actin-SAM-FITC, EMA, and 7-AAD did not display sufficiently high signal-to-noise ratios over the entire time course. Cytokeratin-SAM-FITC was acceptable in every respect other than its specificity only for cells of epithelial origin. Tubulin-SAM-FITC alone satisfied all the criteria and was selected for inclusion in the monoclonal antibody panel as a viability probe.