AAT Bioquest

Why is determining cell viability important?

Posted October 22, 2019


Cell viability measurements are useful in a variety of applications. Sometimes its the main purpose of the experiment, as in cytotoxicity assays. In other cases, cell viability can be used to correlate cell behaviour to cell number, evaluate the efficacy of potential drug candidates, or optimize growth conditions of cell populations maintained in culture. Regardless of the type of cell-based assay being used, it is important to know the precise number of viable cells remaining after exposure to various stimuli or treatment. See table below for information on common parameters and methods for assessing cell viability.

Table 1. Common parameters and methods for determining cell viability.
Cell Membrane IntegrityCell-impermeant nucliec acid stains used to assess membrane integrity. Dead cells are stained. Live cells are unstained.
Intracellular Enzyme ActivityCell-permeable fluoregenic esterases substrates measure enzymatic acitivty, which is required to activate thier fluorescence.
Mitochondrial Membrane Potential (ΔΨm)Cell-permeable dyes that accumulate in the mitochondria of live cells via the ΔΨm. Collapse of ΔΨm is characteristic of apoptotic/dead cells
Cellular MetabolismMonitors cellular metabolic activity using cell-impermeant tetrazolium salts
Monitors the cellular redox potential of entire cell populations

Uses bioluminescent detection to measure ATP and ADP. Changes in the ADP/ATP ratio have been used to differentiate different modes of cell death and viability

Additional resources

JC-10 *Superior alternative to JC-1*

Live or Dead™ Cell Viability Assay Kit *Green/Red Dual Fluorescence*