Comparative analysis of using MTT and XTT in colorimetric assays for quantitating bovine neutrophil bactericidal activity

J Immunol Methods. 1993 Jan 4;157(1-2):225-31. doi: 10.1016/0022-1759(93)90091-k.


Two different tetrazolium compounds were compared for use in a colorimetric assay for quantitating bovine neutrophil bactericidal activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Brucella abortus. The tetrazolium compounds tested included 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) and sodium 3,3'-[1[(phenylamino)carbonyl]-3,4- tetrazolium]-bis(4-methoxy-6-nitro) benzene sulfonic acid hydrate (XTT). The MTT and XTT colorimetric bactericidal assays were conducted by incubating antibody-opsonized bacteria with neutrophils in microtiter plates for 30 and 60 min at ratios of ten and 100 bacteria per neutrophil. Neutrophils were then lysed with saponin and samples were incubated 30 min with MTT or XTT plus coenzyme Q (CQ). Dead bacteria and lysed neutrophils did not react with MTT or XTT plus CQ. Live bacteria converted XTT to water soluble orange formazan in the presence of CQ and MTT to insoluble purple formazan. Absorption of formazan produced by bacteria from XTT was measured at 450 nm. Formazan produced by bacteria from MTT was solubilized by adding isopropanol and measured by absorption at 560 nm. Absorption of both types of formazan was directly related to viable bacteria cell number and used to determine the number of bacteria not killed by neutrophils. The percentage of bacteria killed by neutrophils was determined by extrapolation from a standard formazan curve that was derived by incubating MTT or XTT plus CQ with known numbers of bacteria. The XTT and MTT colorimetric bactericidal assays produced comparable results when used to measure bovine neutrophil bactericidal activity against S. aureus, E. coli, L. monocytogenes, and B. abortus. However, the assay using XTT was quicker and easier to perform because bacteria converted XTT to a formazan that did not need to be solubilized before measuring absorption.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Bactericidal Activity*
  • Cattle
  • Colorimetry
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Tetrazolium Salts / pharmacology*
  • Thiazoles / pharmacology*
  • Ubiquinone / pharmacology


  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles
  • 2,3-bis(2-methoxy-4-nitro-5-sulfophenyl)-5-((phenylamino)carbonyl)-2H-tetrazolium hydroxide
  • Ubiquinone
  • thiazolyl blue